|Joe Locke and Gwilym Simcock
Photo credit: Monika S Jakubowska
A special concert coming up gives us the opportunity to see two exciting but contrasting groups, both featuring pianist Gwilym Simcock. For the first set, he is joined in a duo with U.S. vibraphonist Joe Locke; for the second he is part of Austrian composer Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass ensemble. Peter Bacon looks forward to an enthralling evening…
Gwilym Simcock, pianist, composer, band leader, and sometime Impossible Gentleman, is currently touring with US jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny. He remains one of the most imaginative and acclaimed musicians and composers in the UK and he has become renowned for his solo piano performances. Joe Locke is widely considered to be one of the major voices of his instrument and has released over 30 albums as a band leader. He has received multiple awards including the Jazz Journalists’ Association ‘Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year’ award and the Hot House NYC Jazz Award for Best Vibes player.
Simcock describes the experience of working in this duo with Locke as being particularly rewarding.
“Joe is someone I’ve known for a long time but we’ve only fairly recently got to play together,” Gwilym explains. “Joe has been a regular collaborator with Tim Garland and I’ve been listening to his music for maybe 15 years. When we started playing together it really did feel like we had already been doing it for years. There are a lot of influences that we share.”
Describing Locke’s qualities as a musician, Simcock says: “It’s clear how much love and passion he puts in to what he plays. It’s not affected in any way – it’s genuine love for playing music. Putting ourselves on the line like that is really the best we can do as musicians. Working with Joe has been a great lesson in how to do this”.
Describing the resulting duo, LJN’s editor/publisher Sebastian Scotney wrote in a review: “They both have the imperative to play with unbelievable rapid-fire percussiveness, to go for the adrenalin thrill, where the listener can no longer hear which bit of the texture is coming from which player”. And Michael Cragg, writing in The Guardian, talks about how the pair “… balance graceful sophistication, blazing improv and tight grooves, and the musical games they play are gleefully irresistible.”
The duo will play from a repertoire of original compositions and well-known standards. Joe Locke’s new album, Subtle Disguise, will be released in November, with advance copies available for purchase at the Kings Place concert.
For the second set, Simcock will return as part of award-winning, Berklee trained Austrian composer Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass ensemble, celebrating the release of the album of the same name on Basho Records.
Hourglass is Berauer’s first project for a small jazz ensemble although he considers himself to be, in essence, a jazz musician. Berauer’s previous project Vienna Chamber Diaries also featured Simcock, alongside the talents of guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and reeds player Klaus Gesing, and he has worked as an arranger and musical director for ECM artist and oud master Anouar Brahem.
Berauer has also collaborated with British Sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta. Together they composed the music for the silent movie project King of Ghosts, originally for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, then the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. An album of this music performed by the City of London Sinfonia has just been released by Shakespeare’s Globe.
Johannes Berauer is interested in exploring the development of themes, rich and colourful harmony and the emotional effect of form. Berauer has been strongly influenced by classical composers like Bach, Messiaen or Shostakovitch. Key inspirations for the music explored with Hourglass include Indian music and the impossible illusions of MC Escher.
Photo Credit: Basho Music
“Although Johannes is not a performing improviser, he is really interested in the areas between composition and improvisation. In this context, you do feel a different responsibility in terms of conveying the composer’s ideas through your own playing, but there is always space for the musicians to contribute and express themselves,” Simcock explains.
The line-up of the band, whilst unique, does also draw on a longstanding musical association, with guitarist Mike Walker having collaborated extensively with Simcock as part of The Impossible Gentlemen. The ensemble also features star violinist Thomas Gould (director of the Britten Sinfonia). Drummer Bernard Schimpelsberger has developed a strong specialism in Indian music and has designed some of his own instruments. Electric bassist Martin Berauer (Johannes’ brother), now based in Paris, is a specialist in North African music.
“This is a special group with a lovely, honest energy”, Simcock says. “We’ve never all played together before this project and this is a one-off combination of players that audiences will hopefully enjoy.” (pp)