Gig review: Eyes Shut Tight

Eyes Shut Tight at The Red Lion on Friday evening. Picture © Garry Corbett

Eyes Shut Tight at The Red Lion on Friday evening. Picture © Garry Corbett

The Red Lion, Hockley, Birmingham UK

In the last few years there has been quite a profusion of bass, keyboard and drums outfits attempting to reinvent the piano trio. The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, The Bad Plus, Neil Cowley Trio and Phronesis (to name but a few) have all contributed excitingly diverse takes on the form. Eyes Shut Tight (not to be confused with the German gothic metal band of the same name!) are no exception. Led by Paul Baxter, featuring drummer Kris Wright and pianist Johnny Tomlinson (with Tom Taylor deputising on this last night of the tour), they have been together for three years and are soon to release their third recording- Resonance. For this gig the majority of the music played came from the new album.

The first set kicked off with Transition, featuring slow, lyrical double bass and subtle use of the sticks, which left plenty of room for the gospel-influenced keyboards. Kris Wright, the composer of the following tune, T and C, propelled this upbeat workout with snappy snare detail meshing with lyrical keyboards, as it built to a climax before a slow fade. Precipice had a filmic quality, coming over like the soundtrack of a yet to be made movie, with exacting drums gaining velocity before the tune took flight with some almost boogie woogie- sounding keyboards.

A Touch of the Charlies, from their last album The Thaw, is a subtle, reflective, life-affirming piece, notable for the skilful interplay between resonant bass and Jarrett-influenced keyboards. Hit and Hope motored along with urgent-sounding bass, laced with delicately funky keyboards, arriving at a crescendo before a gentle keyboard and bass comedown.

I’m not sure if Eyes Shut Tight do any other versions of heavy metal tunes, but I would like to hear more if they do. Their version of System of a Down’s foreboding grungey song Aerials is a beauteous vital thing with fragile keys, fingers tapping on the snare drum and propulsive bowed-bass strings building to create an almost mesmeric, ominous feel.

An uninhibited intro kicked off the second set with the free-flowing title track from the new album. The driving drumbeat and incisive keyboards locked into a persistent infectious groove before evolving into a long, languid, soulful keyboard interlude with some delightfully clipped drumming.  Addict starts with some graceful keyboard notes from Tom Taylor, who already sounds like he’s been playing with the band for years, continuing with soaring bass and thoughtful drumming. The infectiously euphoric Forethought (from The Thaw) was one of the highlights of the night and featured an affecting moment of abandon when all the players meshed perfectly into a glorious groove after Baxter’s deeply Charlie Haden-influenced bass had opened up the tune.

What will be the opening track from the new album was the last tune of the evening, and Mr C sums up everything that’s so impressive about Eyes Shut Tight; the intuitive understanding of the individuals in the group creating reflective thoughtful moments, interspersed with propulsive, euphoric deep grooves.

This was a Birmingham Jazz promoted gig.

Categories: Live review

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