Concert review: Liam Noble Trio

CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Pianist Liam Noble wasn’t exactly playing to a home crowd but he has a lot of local support, especially from the Birmingham Conservatoire students he teaches.

And aren’t they a lucky lot? Not only are Noble’s consummate skills as a jazz pianist clearly shown by this current trio project, but so is his thorough research of its subject matter: the music of Dave Brubeck.

He has a new CD awaiting release in April and Saturday’s concert began as it does, with Give A Little Whistle, the Pinocchio tune covered by Brubeck in an album of Disney songs.

Noble may be a familiar face in Birmingham, bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Dave Wickins are less so: the former fulfilled the expectations of so many modern bassists by being the solid central fulcrum about which wild things can spin, the latter was almost exhaustingly busy on a marvellously archaic kit and loads of added toys.

The three men worked their way through familiar Brubeck pieces, including It’s A Raggy Waltz, Three To Get Ready, Blue Rondo A La Turk and Paul Desmond’s Take Five, as well as lesser known tunes like Autumn In Washington Square and the Japanese-tinged Rising Sun.

Noble is the right man to play Brubeck – neither seems either able or willing to play a soppy chord or a sentimental line, even though Dave wrote the very pretty In Your Own Sweet Way and Liam played it (once solo and with the band as an encore) beautifully. Both avoid clichés, work comfortably within difficult rhythmic constructions, and love the tricky interval, the crisp, fresh chord voicing.

A crucial difference for me is that I have always found Brubeck’s playing a little splashy of tone and hard of touch, whereas Noble’s more exacting articulation is much easier to listen to while losing none of the excitement.

Categories: Live review

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