Brian Kellock – Bidin’ My Time
(Self-released (*). HHCD1. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)
“When it’s done properly, it does sound simple; sounds like anybody can do it,” the great American pianist Teddy Wilson once said. Brian Kellock’s new solo piano album Bidin’ My Time ‘does it properly’ and often conveys exactly that sense: there is huge variety, the playing is immaculate and deeply felt, it is beautifully recorded, and yet Kellock’s sublime artistry at the piano – like Wilson’s was – is always worn lightly.
Brian Kellock, now in his mid-50s, is not exactly a secret within the jazz world. The list of musicians who seek him out and love working with him regularly is impressive: Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Sheila Jordan, James Morrison, Carol Kidd, Ken Peplowski and Tommy Smith. He has also made fine albums, notably with Julian Arguelles and the late Herb Geller.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this album is that Brian Kellock never seems to have the slightest inclination or need to clamour or compete for our attention. It is a solo piano album but not a selfie. His opening gesture is typical: he eases us into an elegantly-paced Rodgers’ and Hart Easy to Remember in the most gracious and deeply civilised way possible. It is as he is asking a question such as “May I…?” And then the natural story-teller takes over, there is a natural build, and never a superfluous note.
The new album was recorded on a single day on a fine, soft-toned Viennese Bösendorfer piano which resides at Sound Cafe Studios on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Kellock’s delight in the natural resonance of the Bösendorfer is apparent throughout. Bösendorfer’s website proudly carries a quote from András Schiff which also conveys the feel of Bidin’ My Time: “Some people think a grand piano is a percussion instrument. I seriously beg to differ!”
The fine craft and skill of how to convey and shape a melody are everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more convincingly than in Heather on the Hill. The introduction with sustaining pedal down creates a wash of sound, from which the tune emerges all the brighter. There is nothing hesitant or mannered here, it is deeply affecting. The balance in the voicings is never less than exquisite. And I challenge anyone who listens to it (Track 4) not to have the Lerner and Loewe tune from Brigadoon indelibly implanted on their mind after just a couple of listens. The title track, Gershwin’s Bidin’ My Time is reminiscent of Teddy Wilson at his best. Young and Foolish also starts with a wash of sound and long resonance, but with the una corda pedal bringing an extra level of delicateness.
These examples might make Bidin’ My Time sound like a ballad album, but there is a lot more besides. The madcap stride energy of Fats Waller’s Handful of Keys transports us directly into the world of a Buster Keaton. And for those who might be intent on defining or pigeon-holing Kellock as an old-fashioned “swing” pianist, he has no shortage of surprises up his sleeve. Slow Boat to China starts innocently enough, but then, without any kind of gale warning Kellock sets a course which takes us straight into a contrapuntally thick Force 10. The opening off-kilter sequence of I Got Rhythm has reminiscences of Keith Jarrett at his most disquieteningly OCD-ish. And the final Wait Till You See Her has Bill Evans-ish harmonic richness.
Kellock does not play clever-clever games of complicity and more or less never quotes other tunes extraneously; it really is all about the clarity and expressiveness of the music. I don’t think I have ever heard the oscillating fifths in Sunset and the Mocking Bird played quite so convincingly and musically.
Above all, this is an album full of good humour. It uplifts and energizes. It is self-released, but could easily have earned a place on a major label. And if there is justice in this world – and if major labels are still around – one day it will.
(*) Bidin’ My Time is available at Brian Kellock’s gigs or through mail order via email address email@example.com From 24 August, Bidin’ My Time will be available via Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play, Deezer, Tidal, Shazam, Amazon Music, Napster etc.