Didier Lockwood and Antonio Faraò
(Ronnie Scott’s, 25 February 2014. First of two nights. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Whenever I think of violinist Didier Lockwood, I remember him as a callow, long-haired and enthusiastic 22-year-old alongside Stéphane Grappelli in 1978, at a concert in the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the 70th birthday of the legendary Parisian.
At Ronnie Scott’s, in a less-than-full house, Lockwood – now sporting a distinguished mane tinged with grey – channelled his phenomenal energy and prodigious skill into a performance that bristled with passion and physicality.
After a slightly hesitant start, the melody of Solar burst through and music tumbled across the stage. Lockwood meant business. One moment he was bending his knees, leaning to the floor and bowing in a manic blur; the next second, he swooped – head right back – in an ecstatic frenzy. Familiar standards received a rapturous treatment, including the waltz Someday My Prince Will Come. There was an unusually forceful beat to In a Sentimental Mood, which acquired a bluesy, funky slant.
It was a surprise to discover that Lockwood chose not to bring a regular band to the UK, but this is a top-quality band. Italian pianist Antonio Faraò (whose fine CD Evan is reviewed here) produced wonderfully expansive solos on several tunes including Coltrane’s Impressions, and contributed two pieces of his own: Positive Life and, referring to the scale used in flamenco music, Around Phrygian.
On bass, Dave Whitford maintained equanimity in the face of the furious activity around him. During an intricate solo, he was accompanied by Lockwood gently playing pizzicato with a tone akin to stabbing organ chords. Gene Calderazzo – never one to shy away from a challenge – went headlong into characteristic Elvin-mode and, with powerful and sensitive work, brilliantly negotiated the tortuous twists of the arrangements. He too engaged well with the leader, and they enjoyed a boiling dialogue on a fast minor blues.
Lockwood plays a traditional violin, but occasionally uses electronics to vary its tone and, most notably in an extended solo interlude towards the end, employed loops and echo to build up several layers of sound to accompany himself. His own composition Barbizon Blues emerged after this glorious episode and it closed the show in typically rousing style. Lockwood was given the kind of affectionate reception reserved only for the most iconic musicians, and it was well-deserved.
Along with the recent visit to London of Michal Urbaniak, the forthcoming appearance at Ronnie Scott’s of Jean-Luc Ponty (30 and 31 May), and a wealth of UK-based players such as Christian Garrick, Omar Puente, Ben Holder and Richard Jones… this gig demonstrated that modern jazz violin is in great shape.