Malija, 7th October 2016

None of the players who comprise this outstanding trio is a stranger to Wakefield Jazz, but this wasn’t ‘familiar faces in a slightly altered context.’ It was an intriguing prospect: three master musicians playing original numbers, but without the support of a drummer.

malija
The absence of a drummer in small-group jazz is still relatively rare; and in able hands, at least, it imparts a wholly different slant on the character and possibilities of jazz. Perhaps most importantly, the sources of the music’s rhythmic appeal require forms of alertness, resourcefulness and interplay of a high order.

At every tempo and through every instrumental configuration, the music carried an edge just-poised risk-taking.

But the music was also spacious, which allowed us to savor the way Jasper Holby can phrase a bass run; and to marvel over Mark Lockheart’s sinuous lyricism, especially on soprano. Liam Noble is well known as a highly adaptable pianist—but on this occasion, he seemed able to find a new voice, an extended technique or some wholly unexpected but completely apt way of either shaping or complementing the music. In the trio’s Ellingtonian homage, he played a near-sinister walking/stalking

left hand, while his right playfully skipped behind Mark Lockheart’s melody line. Brilliance doesn’t have to appear as fireworks.

The numbers in the second set were longer and more loosely woven, which allowed each of the musicians to stretch out, demonstrating individual prowess, of course, but without losing sight of the integrity of the group sound.

The group had a particularly good line in finishing a number—sometimes false-footing us, or with a clever, unexpected turn at the last moment—and then there was their ability to finish on an extended, beautiful harmony, a kind of musical ‘dying with a dying fall.’ Notes like that—and indeed, gigs like that—don’t fade quickly from memory.

© Jim Whitman, 8th October 2016

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