Photo credit William Ellis All Rights Reserved
Gwilym Simcock Trio/Stephano D’Silva Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, Thursday 11th August. Part of the Brit Jazz festival. Review by Tom Gray)
Whatever the outcome of next month’s Mercury Music Prize, it is impossible to imagine the level–headed Gwilym Simcock not just taking it in his stride and simply moving on to the next musical challenge he sets himself. He is nominated in that competition for his solo album, ‘Good Days at Schloss Elmau’, but this gig saw him back with his excellent ‘Blues Vignette’ trio and, excitingly, a brand-new set of originals.
These latest compositions showcased the full breadth of Simcock’s musical passions. A piece of Samuel Barber piano music from his childhood days acted as a catalyst for the urgent, angular ‘Barber’s Blues’, which was driven by a funky and fiendishly tricky left-hand ostinato. ‘Kenny’s Way’, a subtly swinging dedication to Kenny Wheeler, captured perfectly the Canadian’s sublime sense of light and shade, while ‘Neutrinos’ moved into more rhythmically adventurous territory, at one point infusing a Radiohead-like riff with some Latin syncopation. There may have been a lot to take in on a first listen, but the rapturous reception of this audience was testament to the instant appeal of the new tunes.
Not only did Simcock’s trio get to grips with these demanding compositions; they allowed them to breathe, adding colour, humour and intensity as required. Yuri Goloubev made a big impact with his nimble, full-toned bass lines and some moving arco playing. Drummer James Maddren was a model of poised restraint through his supple, sensitive work on brushes and sticks but finally exploded into action towards the end with some exhilaratingly muscular playing on ‘A Typical Affair’. And while Simcock’s solos dazzled like electrically charged streams of ideas, they always had a strong sense of purpose and direction, never crowding out the overall group sound.
The wide grins throughout said it all: these are men who don’t merely enjoy sharing the stage, but positively thrive on it.
Stephano D’Silva Quartet
Earlier in the evening, guitarist Stephano D’Silva revived the compositions of his late father, Amancio, an early pioneer of indo-jazz fusions and a rather overlooked figure in British jazz. D’Silva’s quartet evoked the experimental, psychedelic sound of 1960s Soho with hypnotic vamps, rhythmically uninhibited playing and arresting free interludes from bassist John Edwards. While some of the improvisation tended to peter out in the face of a chatty audience, it was a pleasure to hear tunes such as ‘Jaipur’ and ‘A Street in Bombay’ brought to life and sounding fresher than ever.