Pianist Gabriel Latchin
“For my money, London-born Gabriel Latchin is the best straight-ahead jazz pianist to appear in the past few years,” wrote Dave Gelly in 2020. Latchin is about to release his fourth album in a new trio with first-call UK bassist Jeremy Brown and highly-acclaimed NYC drummer Joe Farnsworth. Release date is set for 21 April, tour dates below. “Viewpoint” (Alys Jazz) is a highly personal album of all original, straight-ahead compositions from the pianist whose music has had more than 30 million streams. PP feature by Michael Collins.
It starts with love. That was the message that comes out of a conversation with pianist Gabriel Latchin as we talk about the music he’s recorded for his fourth release as a leader, Viewpoint. The new album will be the first he’s put out comprising only his original compositions, but like the previous three, the classic piano trio line-up and the sound of the band leave no illusions as to where his heart lies musically.
There are pieces dedicated to Cedar Walton and Herbie Hancock, others that consciously echo Ahmad Jamal and João Gilberto. Swinging, bop inspired, harmonically sophisticated and grooving jazz is the order of the day. ‘I don’t worry
about being labelled’ says Latchin and recounts advice he took to heart from a Joshua Redman masterclass during his postgraduate study at the Guildhall in London. He sums it up as ‘listen for what you like, practice music you want to’. Latchin is playing the music he loves.
Viewpoint is building on a growing reputation and visibility the pianist has established over the last few years. Early on he caught the eye of Christian McBride and was invited to play with McBride and Renée Fleming on a gig at Wigmore Hall (picture below). A track from his second album, The Moon And I was included on a Spotify play list. The track, a sumptuous reading of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, has subsequently had nearly 13 million plays, and across all his releases there are in excess of 30 million. Latchin appreciates the contact with fans and occasionally individual connections that have grown from the music’s exposure. ‘I sometimes get emails from around the world’ he says and takes pleasure in someone in Australia or Japan enjoying the trio’s sound.
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The earlier releases tweaked plenty of ears, Latchin’s crisp articulation and fiercely swinging groove mark him out as a class act and someone who’s paid his dues and absorbed the lessons of his inspirations. Dave Gelly in the Observer opined that he
is the best straight-ahead pianist to appear in the last few years. Those qualities are all on display in the new release, distilled into carefully crafted originals.
The opener, Says Who? Is a bustling be-bop work out, with Jeremy Brown’s solo on bass, and the exchanges of ‘eights’ with New York based drummer Joe Farnsworth making clear the quality of the partners Latchin brought together for this recording. “Prim and Proper” is a medium swinger and A Mother’s Love a rich ballad full of colour and shifting harmony. Train Of Thought, with the bass and piano left hand riff providing unstoppable momentum, is a conscious nod to Ahmad Jamal, Latchin showing he has the instinct to let the music breathe and for space to speak eloquently. “O Mito” is a breezy latin piece whilst Mr Walton has the grooving pulse and propulsive riffs of a classic Blue Note piece. It would be easy to persuade oneself these are all undiscovered classic gems rather than Latchin originals.
The choice of partners for the recording date was carefully considered. Jeremy Brown has been an in demand player and fixture on the London scene for decades. There have been plenty of gigs together, but this is the first time that Brown has been part of one of the pianist’s projects. Brown’s sound and deeply felt groove bring something special. ‘He get’s everything just right first time, every time’ says Latchin admiringly. Joe Farnsworth, the top drawer drummer has a CV that includes work with Cedar Walton, Barry Harris, Horace Silver and many more. Taking the opportunity of Farnsworth being in London, Latchin arranged the date. The hook up and bristling energy between the three is easy to hear throughout the set. The music and playing is at the heart of everything that he does, but there’s a rueful acknowledgement of the hard work for individual artists of making the music available, getting attention for releases online, getting radio play and arranging tours.
It’s a side of the industry clearly on Latchin’s mind as he prepares for the album’s release in the weeks ahead. The mind is always on the music however, as he hints at new projects brewing, perhaps expanding the trio for some of the time. It seems Gabriel Latchin is just getting into his stride.
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23 April – Edinburgh Society of Musicians (with Calum Gourlay and Stephen Henderson)
26 April – Pizza Express, London (with Jeremy Brown and Steve Brown)
27 April – Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham (with Jeremy Brown and Steve Brown)
18 May – Blue Lamp, Aberdeen (with Calum Gourlay and Steve Brown)
LINKS: Gabriel Latchin website