Photo credit: Bill Evans
Review: Matthew Halsall and Dwight Trible
(Ronnie Scott’s, 1st May, review by Peter Jones)
There was a time when an orchestra was something involving dozens of musicians; nowadays you can apply the term to quartets and quintets, e.g. the Cinematic Orchestra, the Submotion Orchestra and, of course, trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s outfit, the Gondwana Orchestra. That’s inflation for you, I suppose. Tonight at Ronnie Scott’s, with the inclusion of Los Angeles singer Dwight Trible, Gondwana became just that bit more orchestral; not because Dwight is in any sense a ‘classical’ singer, but because his style is so rich and varied. Yes, he can do soft and loud, fast and slow, high and low (his range is extraordinary), but the ability that Dwight shares with the best orchestras is to convey the idea of something beyond music.
Halsall and his band, joined by reeds man Chip Wickham, played the first set without him. The mood was one of groovy introspection, of bean bags and hash-pipes, although Ronnie’s is more of an ice-cubes-tinkling-in-glasses sort of place. Many of the tunes are in 6/8, featuring the beautifully clear, vibrato-free tone of Halsall’s trumpet and Taz Modi’s impressionistic piano.
When Dwight appeared for the second set, it quickly became apparent to those who had never seen him before that he is a singer like no other. A human conduit to the celestial spirit, his impassioned, revivalist-preacher delivery makes the walls tremble with transcendent energy-waves. Arms aloft, he was soon testifyin’ and hollerin’, his bass-baritone larynx vibrating with emotion. Bacharach and David’s What The World Needs Now Is Love was the opener, from Dwight’s forthcoming Inspirations album, a slow, stripped-down version with almost no chord changes. Similar treatment was given to I Love Paris. In both cases, the effect was to entirely alter the feel of the song, giving the lyrics a sense of urgency and seriousness. Feelin’ Good is a tune made famous by Nina Simone (and written by, of all people, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley); Dwight’s rendition was perhaps the best thing of the night, with a groove powered by Modi and bassist Gavin Barras, Wickham joining in on flute.
The encore was Bill Lee’s John Coltrane, from Dwight’s 2006 masterwork Living Water. It was preceded by Coltrane’s own Dear Lord, a meditative, minimalist piece backed by little more than a few simple bass notes, gentle piano chords and Jon Scott’s beaters.
Dwight Trible may have had to wait until becoming a great-grandfather to make his Scott’s debut appearance, but one sincerely hopes it will not be his last.