A double CD which places the artist in trio, duo and solo contexts is an ambitious undertaking for a 28-year-old, still a callow youth in jazz terms. But pianist Gwilym Simcock has displayed sufficient ambition and talent to make this less of a surprise since striding onto the UK scene a few years ago.
A largely applauded debut, 2007’s Perception, as well as high profile gigs with such luminaries as Kenny Wheeler and Tim Garland have placed him in the ascendant and this new release will hardly derail his progress. Simcock’s growth as a composer comes through in the course of the programme and peaks on the title track, a trio piece that has a deftly skilful evolution from its eerie prelude. A tick-tock of mildly dissonant chords gives way to a more propulsive and wily rhythmic carriage that then slows to a sensual blues drag before reprising its up-tempo surge. Bassist Yuri Goloubev brings much authority to dot-dash lines while drummer James Maddren shows impressive focus too; his snare work, in particular, has a lightness of touch and dynamism that entirely serve the fleet of foot character of Simcock’s themes.
Generally speaking, the music, marked by strong leanings to the classical world, takes its cue from the kind of noble, cultured post-bop marshalled so well by the likes of Kenny Barron and John Taylor, and Simcock handles the vocabulary well. But there is still a timidity in the use of his left hand which occasionally reduces the impact of some of his more ornate statements, all of which are impressively crafted but need more bedrock beneath them. They fall a touch flat because the bass is caressing too gently rather than pushing the music up with a real bold sense of intent. With his upper register sparkling so much this isn’t a huge failing, but if it were addressed then the results could be very strong.
Simcock possibly needs the right producer, an experienced, sagacious elder who can coach him to good effect. Then again more time and less hype would also serve his cause well. --Kevin Le Gendre
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moves Gwilym Simcock onto a new musical plane. An extraordinarily gifted pianist/composer, his music is engaging, exciting, melodically enthralling, complex and wonderfully optimistic. Gwilym Simcock’s new double album Blues Vignette
launches his new trio with extraordinary, classically trained Russian bassist Yuri Goloubev and young UK drum star James Maddren as well as documenting Gwilym’s emerging voice as a solo pianist.
The first CD offers a mix of stunning improvisations and new Simcock compositions as well as insightful interpretations of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and the popular tune “On Broadway”. It also provides a brief window into the mind of a composer who mixes classical and jazz without effort, with a recording of a suite for cello and piano originally written for the opening of London’s newest venue King’s Place. Classical cellist Cara Berridge features on this work.
The trio CD is a stunning mix of Simcock compositions and brilliant interpretations of great classics such as “Black Coffee” and “Cry Me A River”. Gwilym says “recording an album is like taking a photograph. An album is a document of a specific moment in time, a vignette, an insight into the stage that one as a musician has reached. This album marks both the beginning of a fresh journey with a new trio, and documents my continuing quest towards finding an individual voice as a solo pianist. All of this music is neither 'Jazz' nor 'Classical'. It is just music What I feel is important in music is lyricism, subtlety and clarity in harmonic and rhythmic movement, and an overall sense of an emotional connection with the listener, whatever the context of the music may be”.