REVIEW: Hans Koller Quartet feat. John O’Gallagher+ Percy Pursglove’s Far Reaching Dreams Trio at Kings Place

L-R: Hans Koller, Percy Pursglove, John O’Gallagher,
Jeff Williams

Hans Koller Quartet feat. John O’Gallagher + Percy Pursglove’s Far Reaching Dreams Trio 
(Kings Place, 4th March 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

What a difference a year makes. Or to be precise/pedantic, a year minus twelve days. This quartet played an incredibly frustrating gig at the Vortex downstairs bar in March 2015 (I reviewed it), and in pretty hopeless circumstances they gave a strong indication of what they might, fate willing, one day become. That performance was interrupted by complaints of noise leakage. There wasn’t a single audience seat from which you could hear a balanced band sound. This time around, pretty much everything which had been wrong was right: there was a decent piano that you could actually hear, the Kings Place sound crew know their job very well, and there was also a healthily-sized and highly appreciative audience.

Time has also moved on, and this group has received a major gift from provenance, in the form of Birmingham City University’s invitation to John O’Gallagher to complete a Ph.D. The result of that is that, hey presto, one extremely fine Brooklyn-ite California-born alto player now finds himself – to the agreeable surprise of everyone, including him –  as a West Midlands resident. This shift has enabled him and Hans Koller – who is a faculty member at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of BCU – to continue a fascinating musical partnership which had been originally instigated by Jeff Williams.

The communality of musical purpose of Koller and O’Gallagher is now being allowed to prosper and to flourish, and it was a thrill to hear how their thought processes are starting to intertwine and coalesce. Both O’Gallagher and Koller have intellectual resources to spare, and are capable of offering the listener some seriously mind-bending material, and yet they are also able to find joy in something as teasingly trite as a Charleston rhythm. The partnership gives heft and shape to the most complex and asymmetric phrases, but  – perhaps like all genuinely intelligent people – they can also present difficult concepts in simplistic and understandable terms. Both men know how to serve up charm, clarity and humour for the rest of us, whose lazy brains unfortunately don’t always quite make it to the far end of every curlicue.

In Percy Pursglove and Jeff Williams they have a solid yet subtle and supple underpinning. This quartet is a creative cauldron in which new as yet unnamed tunes are constantly being brought to fascinating life. Their creative sparks and reflected flashes make for a constantly compelling and satisfying experience. Book/hear/enjoy this band.

A curtain call after a very satisfying set from the Hans Koller Quartet

There was also high quality in the first set from a trio led by Percy Pursglove (trumpet and bass) with Hans Koller and Paul Clarvis. Percy previewed this set for us HERE. His interview with Peter Bacon is quite technical, but does also contain the key to the music he presented last night: “It is dedicated to a handful of remarkable people who in my opinion have made a real and lasting contribution to mankind.” These are indeed compositions pointed at a magnetic North of idealism and clarity – or, in musical terms, lyricism and purity of utterance. I particularly enjoyed the clean lines of his trumpet playing in Cosa Divina, with both Hans Koller and Paul Clarvis happy to support with quiet, sketchy, unimposing suggestions of what an accompaniment to such crystalline thinking might be.

Hans Koller and Percy Pursglove
(also in trio: Paul Clarvis)

This Kings Place concert was presented by the Birmingham label Stoney Lane. It was also the London launch of Hans Koller’s triple vinyl collection Retrospection.

Hans Koller’s new work Twelve Re-inventions for George Russell is to be premiered at CBSO Centre on March 12th. DETAILS

Categories: miscellaneous

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