(Cadogan Hall 17 November 2019. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)
By the time they finished their limpidly beautiful encore, Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter’s 90-minute set had stretched to almost two hours. This was the last night of their European tour and if they didn’t want to stop, neither did we.
As with their recent CD release, Good Hope, the live show has a special quality. There’s a feeling that, for all the storied achievements of all three players, this is the band they have been waiting to play with. Hussein’s orchestral percussion makes them seem more than a trio. Dave Holland’s bass centres the sound and he furnishes a jaw-dropping series of impeccable solos. I have never seen him look happier on stage. Chris Potter, when not dealing brilliantly with the hefty saxophone responsibilities of a pianoless trio, looks on with a smile caught somewhere between joy and disbelief.
There was one new tune by Potter, a penetrating Eastern-flavoured soprano sax excursion. Otherwise the set-list all came from the CD, a bout of touring giving the proceedings a well-drilled air but also stretching the pieces in new ways. With players of such accomplishment, deep familiarity with each piece doesn’t mean falling into routine – it invites striving for the next level. That’s a hard metaphor to unpack, but whatever the highest level of the game might be, this evening’s music operated there pretty much all the time. Everything – the filigree of tabla beats, the constant urging of the bass, the soaring soprano or tenor sax flights – melds into an artistic unit of rare power.
For me, this trio sets a standard of rhythmic fascination and melodic invention that are hard to match. Watching the players enjoying that so much is an extra pleasure. This was not quite a flawless affair. Hussain’s compulsion to slip in fragments of nursery melodies into a percussion solo, like an anxious uncle brandishing a lollipop, surfaced occasionally, to mildly irksome effect and…. well that was pretty much the only flaw. Really, a completely satisfying evening.
Categories: Live review