|Nicola Andrioli, Gabrielle Ducomble
Pizza Express, June 2015
Vocalist Gabrielle Ducomble* is to be congratulated for having brought someone new to London last night. This gig was a welcome first UK appearance in London for a fine, young, fluent, melodic pianist based in Brussels, Nicola Andrioli. He is originally from Brindisi, and did his studies at the CNSM in Paris, right alongside a vintage crop of the top young players in France, including pianist/ composer Eve Risser (INTERVIEW) and drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq (INTERVIEW). The fact that guitar great Philip Catherine has chosen Andrioli as a regular duo partner should give sufficient evidence of the pianist’s pedigree. When soloing he has a delightful way of getting teasingly later and later behind the first beat, but the main things to admire in his playing are an irresistible urge to float a melody, with technique serving beauty, and also his crispness, discretion and responsiveness as accompanist.
The theme of the evening was to survey the hits of Michel Legrand, and Andrioli’s elegance fitted this task well. A highlight was The Summer Knows, with a langorous, exposed opening instrumental by Fulvio Sigurta, followed by a faster wordless improvisation from Ducomble building to a perfectly judged pay-off climax, with Andrioli maching them for pace, mood, colour, giving a proper shape to everything.
The drummer Mimi Verderame is a leading figure on the Belgian scene, a thoroughly professional and creative player, and it was also good to hear the solid supportive sound of bassist Hedrick Vanatenhoven – we were VERY lucky he made it to the gig, because he had been mugged and robbed of his passport in the early morning on one of the busiest sections of the Brussels Metro between De Brouckere and Gare du Midi.
Gabrielle Ducomble meanwhile just gets better and better, stronger both vocally and in stage presence, and was clearly enjoying working with this band. If her floated, wistful, emotional Legrand was a soft delight, her harder, edgier Claude Nougaro songs – such as Cinema, and Sing Sing (Cannonball Adderley’s Work Song) were punchy, sassy, jazzy, and delivered with astonishing conviction, Ducomble is as powerful a performer of the songs as it is possible to imagine. There is no mistaking when a singer completely owns material, is approaching it at the right time and with the right people. Wow. Just wow.
*also with thanks to instigator Anthony Steinberg.