19 November 2021, Eternal Triangle:

Trevor Watts, alto and soprano sax.
Veryan Weston, keyboard.
Jamie Harris, congas and percussion.

A tireless instrumentalist, composer and collaborator, Trevor Watts has been at the leading edge of British and international jazz for more than fifty years—and on tonight’s showing, he’s a young lion still. 

All of the familiar characteristics of his saxophone style were in place: spiralling lines punctuated by staccato bursts; deftly placed trills; long arcs into the altissimo range; musical ideas developed and sustained through circular breathing; and an urgent, even passionate tone.  Familiarity with the technicalities of saxophone playing is not required to marvel at his technique. One is inclined to paraphrase the incomparable Dolly Parton (‘You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap’) by observing: You’d be surprised how much control it takes to sound this wild.

And wild they were—but in a tightly integrated, musically cohesive manner. In fact, there were no solos to speak of—all three musicians played more or less continuously, giving the sound a surprising richness and a propulsiveness that never lagged. Driving everything forward was Jamie Harris on congas. Some of his playing was little short of ferocious, but always with the kind of nuance that only a master of the congas can display. And his precise timing with both Trevor and Veryan was a particular pleasure.

Playing electronic keyboard instead of piano allowed Veryan Weston to deploy 

a range of colouration and sustained harmonic  support in  a variety of registers, in part because his keyboard could be divided. In lesser hands, this can be something of a gimmick; and shifting seamlessly between such a wide range of sounds is quite risky. But he was able to accomplish everything a jazz pianist in a more conventional group is charged with and much more besides. At several junctures, it was difficult to believe that a trio could produce such full, compelling drive.

This was truly engaged and engaging music—and at times, quite thrilling. Perhaps best to leave eternal triangles to mystical spheres. Down here on earth, we can all hope that this particular triangle goes on and on. 

What’s on next? Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat


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