Liam Noble’s Long Game, 4th March 2022.

Liam Noble – piano and keyboards.
Tom Herbert – bass.
Will Glaser – drums.

Most evenings, if you turn up at a jazz club you can expect a band that will play a mixture of swinging standards and ballads, with a well-judged mix of chorus and solo turns. But sometimes a band will adopt a very different creative stance and take the audience in directions that aren’t entirely new but that aren’t predictable either. This was restless, inventive and constantly surprising music. And the use of instrumental effects (Liam Noble’s electronic keyboard and Tom Herbert’s bass pedals) gave much of the music forms of tonal and harmonic richness that aren’t typical of a piano trio.

Two contrasting forms predominated: impressionistic and hard-driving abstraction, the latter propelled by Will Glaser’s energetic drumming—always precise, even when at his most polyrhythmic. The impressionistic mode was expressed through Liam’s keyboard, sometimes used to introduce a number before he turned to the piano. But he also deployed it as his lead voice, occasionally abetted with subtle electronic effects from Tom Herbert.

Tom is a ‘deep listening’ bass player, quite sensitive and responsive. His Bass Six instrument, poised between a guitar and conventional bass, informed his approach, since he largely played with a pick, giving his bass lines an unusual character; and it was fascinating to hear what he was able to draw from that instrument in his one extended solo.

Liam’s piano playing can reach ‘fast and furious’ levels, but without loss of control or melodic and harmonic logic, even when he’s playing double octaves at speed. What is most compelling in his playing is his harmonic approach, especially his carefully-placed dissonances. In the quieter passages, one can hear hints of early twentieth century ‘classical’ composers. 

The audience was quickly on notice that we should expect the unexpected. The opening number, introduced obliquely through rather spooky electronica, soon morphed into  compelling funk. And the trio’s penultimate offering, ‘Head First’, was a drumming master class. But in a bold move, the final number was the most impressionistic of all—a shimmering abstract—and the closest to a tone poem you could ever hope to hear at a jazz gig. It was a lovely finish to an evening of bold, creative musicianship.

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