Gwilym Simcock: Solo
(Live stream performance, presented by The 606 Club, for EFG London Jazz Festival. 19 November 2020. Review by Jon Carvell)
Stuck at home in Berlin due to travel restrictions, Gwilym Simcock couldn’t make it to the 606 Club for his 2020 London Jazz Festival performance, but instead we were treated to a live stream of exceptional quality from his Berlin living room.
Opening with a new composition The Rolling Hills, Simcock was quick to transport us into his vibrant harmonic world. Although dedicated to the great pianist Fred Hersch, this new piece sounded more influenced by Simcock’s work with Pat Metheny over the last few years. There was a brightness and optimism to the chart, underpinned by serious virtuosity, with modulations and reharmonisations coming thick and fast. Such a combination reflects the essence of Simcock’s playing: bags of natural musicality and a formidable technical rigour.
Alongside Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way and Kenny Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song but My Own, Simcock offered more of his original compositions including Through the Haze, in which he drew upon the brooding moods of Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain. Not only capturing the unease at the heart of many of the tracks on that album, Simcock also showed his talent for tonal colour, echoing the beauty of Gil Evans’s orchestrations.
It’s easy to bemoan a lack of meaningful connection in some live streams, but credit is due to Simcock and the 606 Club for making this performance so engaging. The sound of Simcock’s house piano was captured pristinely, and the gig felt very personal. The 606 Club clearly occupies a special place in Simcock’s heart, and his now 20-year association with the venue is testament to the role owner Steve Rubie plays in developing emerging artists. Getting back in person to the warmth and character of the 606 can’t come soon enough, but being a fly on the wall for a home session from Simcock in full flow is an excellent tonic in the meantime.