Wakefield Jazz was delighted to welcome back the Jonathan Gee Trio for this, its 30th Anniversary gig. Jonathan has made appearances at the club over nearly 20 years, always to sustained acclaim, but his return on this date was particularly apt and keenly anticipated because five years previously, on the Club’s 25th Anniversary, he had been commissioned to compose music for the occasion—‘The Wakefield Suite,’ which he reprised, to the great pleasure of regulars and newcomers alike.
Jonathan brings a thoughtful, un-showy technique to his playing, relying more on well-chosen harmonic configurations and progressions than on more conventional left-hand chords and rapid, right-hand runs. There is certainly no shortage of high-voltage technique to his playing, but his music dedicated to bringing out the nuances of the tunes, rather than to showcase his ability. In fact, he has a ‘less is more’ approach that is all his own—a characteristic of musicians who are careful listeners to the partners in the band—and it was fascinating to see and hear how deftly he was able to switch from hard-hitting, two-handed chordal playing to the subtlest melodic touches. The charm, but also the power of his playing was evident in two lovely Beatles tunes, played back-to-back: ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘Blackbird’—the latter given its due sweetness before Jonathan led the band into a version that was remarkably robust but still true to the melody.
Tenor player Tim Whitehead is another familiar and favourite musician at Wakefield Jazz—and again, another musician who has no need for largely non-musical displays of his formidable musicianship. Much as though he was working from within the tune, the emphasis seemed always to be on finding the clearest and most direct way to the heart of the song. These were passionate performances; and although he was particularly affecting in the slower numbers, he had a great line in rollicking, dance-like numbers too.
Tristan Maillot on drums and Ben Hazleton on bass ensured that the musical communion between Jonathan and Tim found expression as a remarkably coherent band. These wonderfully assured musicians had firepower aplenty, but revealed it sparingly, with much of their most compelling playing within the band context: they had no need to ‘save the best’ for their solo turns, riveting though these were.
This was as fine a band as one could hope to hear, with all of the virtues of high-level jazz in place: superb technique in the service of musical ideas; spontaneity, close, near-magical interplay between the musicians; and splendid audience rapport—in short, a fitting celebration of 30 years of jazz in Wakefield; and a fitting promise for the years to come.
Tim Whitehead – saxophones
Jonathan Gee – piano
Ben Hazleton – bass
Tristan Maillot – drums