mac, Birmingham UK
The stage was beautifully lit, the reconditioned Bosendorfer gleamed, and the PA sound was excellent, bringing the bass out warm and rounded, keeping the drums crisp and forceful but in proportion in the mix, and letting the full range of the piano shine.
Drummer Shaney Forbes is an old friend of pianist Robert Mitchell but he hasn’t been in this trio all that long – not that you’d have known that from last night. The two locked in perfectly, especially when Mitchell rose to his percussive climaxes, his hands a blur above the keys. Tom Mason stood between them pushing the pulse just as strongly. The bassist took some lyrical solos during the evening, and Mitchell’s tasteful fills behind them show him to be as strong in support as he is leading this band.
It’s a group which is quickly gaining a signature sound, blending hip-hop beats and minimalist structures into the jazz piano trio format in a seamless fashion.
The tunes came from the late South African pianist Bheki Mseleku and from Massive Attack as well as from Mitchell himself. It is music stronger on tension than release, partly because that is how Mitchell builds his solos, constructing multi-stranded themes with both hands equally important, then knotting them ever tighter in complex twists and turns, all the while building the intensity and therefore the excitement .
The first half provided me with one really enjoyable musical experience and a lot of food for thought,. The musical experience was Jonathan Powell’s Sonata VIII, which was the contemporary composer’s elaborate construction based on Antonio Carlos Jobim song, Aguas de Marco (Waters of March). Of course it is hard to make something dull from one of the finest pieces of songwriting from the 20th century; nevertheless, Powell’s piece provided new insights into the original as well as achieving its own ends.
This was one of the pieces pianist Ivo de Greef commissioned as part of his Keith Jarrett project, and was inspired by the way Jarrett reworks standard tunes. Other contemporary composers enlisted included Argentinian Gustavo Beytelmann and Robert Mitchell, who supplied a strong piece for left-hand only. De Greef interspersed them with performances of transcriptions of Jarrett.
These pieces, and especially the transcriptions, got me to thinking about why I get more from a jazz performance than from a classical one. I think it has something to do with the way the music is getting to me. I have a nagging suspicion that jazz, like that beer the name of which I can’t recall, reaches places others can’t reach – specifically in the mind, heart and body of the performer. It seems that music pre-composed and (merely) being played by the musician in the room with us, flows from ink on page through the eyes and to the perfectly classically schooled fingers; whereas the music being composed as it is played, if you like, is taking a more complex and organic path through the musician in front of us. And with more satisfying results for the listener.
Certainly on the evidence of first half versus second, this would seem to be the case.
The greatly restructured theatre is a fine space, the seats are much more comfortable but I am unable to comment on the noisiness or otherwise of the air conditioning because it wasn’t on. It was therefore soporifically warm.
Categories: Live review