Live review

Larry Goldings Trio at the 606 Club (2019 EFG LJF)

Larry Goldings Trio
(606 Club, EFG London Jazz Festival, 20 November 2019. Review by Peter Jones)

Although he has played in London on many occasions, this was the first time organist Larry Goldings and his trio of the last 30 years have visited the 606. Towards the end of this warm, relaxed and enormously enjoyable gig, he said he wished he could play more nights there because he liked the room so much. He wasn’t schmoozing and he wasn’t joking – he clearly meant it – although his Steve Martin-like jokes are excellent. (One running gag is his online alter ego, Austrian pianist Hans Groiner, who has made it his life’s work to improve the music of Thelonious Monk by rescuing it from its strange rhythms and dissonant chords – see YouTube clip below.)

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Larry Goldings Trio. Phone snap by Peter Jones

The 606 was packed, and at least half the audience was composed of musicians. This wasn’t surprising: Goldings has been at the top of his game since his late teens, when he was still a music student, and played with Sarah Vaughan, Sweets Edison and Al Cohn. His first professional gig was a long tour with Jon Hendricks. He and his collaborators Peter Bernstein (guitar) and Bill Stewart (drums) have been together so long that they have formed a deep telepathic bond. This was obvious in numbers that began impressionistically, taking a long time to resolve into something familiar. One example was I’m in the Mood for Love, which they played with barely a reference to the original melody until the last head. They used the same approach with an upswing rendition of Puttin’ on the Ritz, which Goldings didn’t name in his introduction, merely saying that it would appeal to fans of Young Frankenstein and Fred Astaire alike. Embraceable You was prefaced by a bizarre multi-saxophone cadenza conjured from Goldings’s iPad.

It’s been said very often, but it can’t be said often enough: a great tune will survive any treatment. The Goldings trio sound as fresh as paint, but in the first set a lot of the material consisted of well-known standards. “We’re going to keep going back in time till we get to Vivaldi – I think you’re gonna love the Four Seasons,” quipped Goldings. In the second set they played more of their own numbers, beginning with the gentle, meandering Fagen, titled in tribute to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, the greatest jazz composer in rock. It was followed by Bill Stewart’s beboppy Tincture. (Goldings pretended he couldn’t remember how it went, and tried singing it.) Bernstein’s Jive Coffee, another great tune in relaxed 5/4, featured a master-class drum solo from Stewart. They ended the evening with Nobody Else But Me in the kind of mid-tempo that really swings.

Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart played this gig as if to an audience of friends in someone’s front room. They are among the world’s most accomplished and least show-offy musicians.

Link: Hans Groiner Jazz Piano lesson 

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