‘Play’ – Michele Di Toro Trio

Digipack_MDT

AS THE PURITY and subtly impish equilibrium of the sleeve art suggests, the elegant artistry displayed in this trio album, Play, from Italian pianist Michele Di Toro is undeniably breathtaking.

Di Toro’s companions on a recording mainly of originals are Milan-based double bassist Yuri Goloubev and Gallarate-born drummer Marco Zanoli. Together they magically forge delicate chamber jazz, comparable to the gracefulness and exactitude of Italian classical baroque, with Mediterranean finesse and attention to detail reminiscent of the music of Paolo Paliaga (Alboran Trio) and, at times, Stefano Bollani.

Clarity, balance and crisp technical execution are immediately discernible as the album proceeds – but, importantly, there is also the lifeblood of emotional sensitivity which undoubtedly flows through the veins of this music. Lutetia launches the ten-track sequence, characterised by a wistful, seemingly-perpetual (Escher-like) cycle of shifting minor keys which introduces Yuri Goloubev’s unmistakable, deftly cantabile bass soloing; the quickening tempo spotlights both Di Toro’s bright, Jarrett-inspired pianistic style and Marco Zanoli’s incisive, percussive brilliance. There’s a quirky charm to waltzing Ninna Nanna, with its bass harmonics, reverse-processed cymbal scrapes and an amiable development of melody (even a hint of Svensson’s e.s.t.); and the spirited bossa nova of Yuri Goloubev’s Daunted Dance prompts Di Toro and Zanoli to wallow in its unalloyed positivity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Di Toro’s Corale declares Bachian characteristics as deep, resounding arco bass instils reverence before its exquisitely tempered animation is introduced, including the most sumptuous of melodic extemporisations from the bassist. Marco Zanoli’s Distances sustains the baroque feel (almost referencing Anna Magdalena’s Clavierbüchlein of 1725) in a gently lucid minuet which showcases the precision of each of the players; and Remembering Chopin‘s romantic mood, announced by the pianist’s deeply-felt lyricism, widens into irresistible vivacity. The reticent demeanour of Goloubev’s Joni… suits the trio well as Di Toro eloquently and chromatically paints impressive, broad canvasses of rich colour (Zanoli contributing shimmering shafts of light), whilst pressing miniature Change of Scene(ry) is punctuated with alluringly free explorations.

Very much the essence of 20th Century British classical composition, William Walton relocated in mid-life to the Italian isle of Ischia, so the arrangement of Touch Her Soft Lips and Part (from Walton’s Henry V suite) has a geographical connection here. Its aching beauty clearly finds a resonance with jazz musicians – Pete Erskine just one its interpreters (Time Being, ECM) – and this trio magically stamps it authority on it with measured, bejewelled delicacy (Sir William and Lady Susanna would, I’m sure, vehemently approve of this (to date) most perfectly realised of reinterpretations). Brief Chorale VIII – Ascension closes the album, Goloubev’s bowed variation of the earlier Corale echoing his orchestral past and confirming this trio’s unquestionably informed correlation of jazz and classical worlds.

Play is available from Abeat Records and online retailers. Discover its crystalline beauty.

Michele Di Toro piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Marco Zanoli drums

micheleditoro.com

Abeat Records – ABJZ 134 (2014)

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‘Instrumation’ – Gwilym Simcock

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THE WORLDS of orchestral music and contemporary jazz have always been, for me, on a par, their life-enhancing qualities able to spark a similar depth of emotion and appreciation. Sometimes, however, when the two are brought face to face, the result can be less than convincing – at best, forced and unnatural; at worst, excruciatingly unpalatable. A successful synthesis requires an equal measure of advanced compositional and improvisatory insight, as well as accomplished performers who are responsive to the demands and challenges.

Cue pianist/composer Gwilym Simcock, The City of London Sinfonia conducted by Clark Rundell, double bassist Yuri Goloubev, drummer Martin France and guitarist John Parricelli. Classically trained, Simcock already has, in his early thirties, an extraordinary track record: involved in a huge array of international jazz projects; BBC Radio 3’s first New Generation Artist; various premières and commissions (including the BBC Proms); recently instrumental in the realisation of the inaugural BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition; and a string of solo and collaborative album releases to his name. So it’s fascinating to hear these new works, specifically written for orchestral and chamber formats.

Instrumation presents two original five-movement suites: Move!, a City of London Sinfonia commission for piano, orchestra, double bass, drums and guitar; and Simple Tales (more a collection of individual pieces) for quintet – piano, violin, cello, double bass and drums. Both are through-composed by Simcock whilst allowing improvisatory freedom within – and there’s a discernable sense of engagement and drive amongst the players which informs the cohesion and sophistication of this crossover.

Move!
Opening movement Clunky instantly reveals Simcock’s skill in conjoining orchestral and jazz quartet elements as the pressing momentum is embraced by all (this is no bolt-on orchestral backing). The palette of colours achievable in this vast line-up is impressive, the whole canvas filling until Simcock offers the first of two improvised piano interludes which bridge the three main movements. Chromatically-searching Interlude #1 becomes progressively Gershwin-like, connecting seamlessly with Columns, a statuesque and sumptuously-scored ‘Manhattan soundtrack’ which sees Simcock writing eloquently for brass (no surprise, given his own flair for the French horn). Interlude #2 finds the pianist exploring the physicality of his instrument, registering heavy muted strings, bodywork thumps and rapid, low register keyboard runs before bursting energetically into Industrial (For Alan), dedicated to his father (who, he says, appreciates “a tune you can actually tap your feet to!”). This final movement is the most intensely rhythmic, featuring echoic electric guitar from John Parricelli and measured drumming from Martin France (the extended drum and piano duet section particularly striking). Again, the City of London Sinfonia’s involvement is completely integral, combining with Simcock’s supple piano soloing to conclude what is a riveting (and no doubt exacting to perform) ‘big band’ finale.

Simple Tales
Simcock’s writing for quintet feels natural, his signature jazz piano style in Overture elaborated upon by the violin of Thomas Gould and cello of Will Schofield (the original trio concept was reworked to include bass and drums, which now provide its gentle impetus). The Theme is more introspective – lush chords plus Yuri Goloubev’s typically sensitive bass soloing; and Mr Bricolage dances both vibrantly and mischievously, the players revelling in its folksy freedom, and Martin France providing the flamboyant percussive license to ‘go for it’. The several minutes of Long Road meander in and out of ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ piano trio formats (at times, perhaps a strange marriage) until, finally – this time in dedication to Simcock’s mother and her love of Celtic folk music – Dance! (for Ann) skips and pirouettes brightly (plucked strings reminiscent of Ravel or Britten, and Thomas Gould’s showy fiddle à la Mussorgsky), the five-piece seeming at its most balanced here – a joyous conclusion.

Released in the UK on 7 April 2014 by ACT Music.


Gwilym Simcock
piano
City of London Sinfonia conducted by Clark Rundell
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Martin France drums
John Parricelli guitar
Thomas Gould violin
Will Schofield cello

gwilymsimcock.com

ACT Music – 9564-2 (2014)

‘Reverie at Schloss Elmau’: Duo Art – Gwilym Simcock & Yuri Goloubev

Reverie

PART OF ACT’S ‘DUO ART’ SERIES, ‘Reverie at Schloss Elmau’ brings together two good friends from the contemporary jazz world – British pianist Gwilym Simcock and Russian (Milan-resident) double bassist Yuri Goloubev – for a programme of gloriously poetic brilliance.

Situated in Germany, towards the Austrian border, Elmau is a favoured stomping ground for Simcock – a recording retreat of creative calm, and the location for his solo piano album, ‘Good Days at Schloss Elmau’ (ACT, 2011). In this same environment, the pianist and bassist have woven together a sumptuous tapestry of co-written originals, drawn from their illustrious classical and jazz experiences – the appeal of this crossover confirmed by their recent, well-received live performance on BBC Radio 3’s established, chamber-focused Lunchtime Concert slot, as well as many international stage appearances.

Recording together previously (on ‘Blues Vignette’, as a trio with James Maddren – Basho, 2009), it’s clear that Simcock and Goloubev have developed a strong telepathic communication, their compositions leaping to the vibrant rhythms of jazz, as well as incorporating the grace and complex harmonic language of (amongst others I hear) Debussy, Ravel, Brahms and perhaps even Gershwin. Both musicians approach their craft with exacting precision, each able to ‘turn on a sixpence’ from emotional yearning – often characterised by Goloubev’s sustained, rhapsodic arco – to the tumbling, overflowing joy of Simcock’s dazzling piano.

Pastoral begins the journey with a pellucid, spacial simplicity which resembles Scandinavian folksong, pictorialised by droplet- and icicle-suggested effects before gaining gently-paced momentum – the first indication of the extraordinarily sensitive interaction that permeates the entire album. Also, it soon becomes apparent that these nine pieces are not for the background but, rather, demand close attention to fully appreciate the detail – indeed, importantly, at louder volumes the physical resonance is such that it’s easy to become involved at a much more intimate level. As an illustration, in Lost Romance, Goloubev’s lithe fingerwork annunciates every passage with such amazing depth, melodic accuracy, ringing harmonics and vibrato… it really is breathtaking, especially for an instrument so often consigned to plodding support! Shades of Pleasure explores major and minor keys with a luscious intertwining of piano and bass between its gently jarring main theme, set against a smoothly-ebbing piano ostinato, Goloubev again demonstrating his considerable dexterity.

In contrast to the duo’s quieter moments, Antics is a wondrously frolicking episode based around a familiar ‘playground jibe’ motif which the pair gladly tease each other with. Simcock seems to be establishing an upbeat pianistic style all of his own, featuring heavily accented chords and bounding baselines, best described as a ‘breakneck blues’ – such a compelling listen; and Yuri does well to chase him closely into every corner of these brisk four minutes. A Joy Forever tugs at the heartstrings, a beautifully emotive tune from the exquisite, cello-like fluidity of Goloubev, his switch from arco to fingered bass no less sublime (I recall seeing a young Gwilym Simcock playing many years ago with legendary drummer Bill Bruford – Earthworks, with Tim Garland – and the loftiness of this piece brings to mind Bruford’s own piano and bass gem, ‘Palewell Park’).

Non-Schumann Lied might be seen as reference to the artists’ classical beginnings, its songlike impressions maybe more elegantly Brahmsian in flavour; and Flow eddies and skips along to the lucid, colourful melodies that both instrumentalists share so keenly. The leggero ‘song without words’ feel of Vain Song finds Goloubev once again displaying a remarkable lightness of touch, Simcock hitting the heights of jazz soloing finesse (listen closely – this is a real treasure). And finally, an almost Elgarian Reverie (from the pen of 19th Century bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini) – its subtle Victorian shades, reminiscent of Chanson de Nuit, find Yuri Goloubev at his most classically lyrical (though not without idiosyncratic improvisatory interlude) against the restrained romantic piano of Simcock.

Gwilym Simcock and Yuri Goloubev are, separately, to be found in many different guises in a currently buzzing contemporary jazz scene. But here, they pause to forge beauty and majesty in this coming together of two acoustic instruments – illuminated, of course, by their combined musical genius.

‘Reverie at Schloss Elmau’ is released on the ACT label – more information and audio samples here.


Gwilym Simcock
piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass

ACT 9624-2 (2104)

‘Insight’ – Maciek Pysz Trio

Insight

SO… WHERE HAVE I BEEN with this review of Maciek Pysz Trio’s ‘Insight’? Well, probably reclining on a sunlounger, soaking up both the Summer sunshine and the perfectly-attuned sounds from this delightful release by guitarist Maciek Pysz, with Asaf Sirkis (drums & percussion) and Yuri Goloubev (double bass).

It is a long time since I have heard guitar-playing with quite so much precision, assuredness and musicality – and Pysz’s technique will no doubt be compared to jazz and jazz/rock greats Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin, such is the impassioned fluidity of the performances here. The nine self-penned tracks (one in collaboration with Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona) demonstrate the Polish-born guitarist’s considerable compositional skills, taking us on a journey of differing moods, emotions and influences. And employing acoustic and classical guitars, Pysz is able to skilfully present his jazz – always accessible, yet technically and emotively breathtaking – with luminous Spanish, Latin and Brazilian character.

This writing and playing would be impressive enough in its own right. But Maciek Pysz has chosen two of the most intuitive and sensitive players on the scene to take this music into a three-dimensional sphere. Asaf Sirkis, already known for his huge contribution in the jazz world (Gilad Atzmon, John Law, Alex Hutton) provides drums and percussion courtesy of his original, handmade kit (used to such great effect in Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio). Incorporating hand drums, cymbals and the depth of the beautiful Udu, Sirkis creates his own soundworld – as mesmerising to watch as to hear – with the gorgeous timbres and rhythms he coaxes from this unusual percussive grouping. Bassist Yuri Goloubev, a regular performer alongside Sirkis, brings his own distinctive expression to this recording – he shows absolute empathy with and musical respect for the trio concept, nimbly matching Pysz with scampering runs as well as offering his very personal, singing arco style.

The whole programme flows beautifully, with the upbeat ‘Those Days’ immediately revealing how integrated this trio sound is. Frequently Pysz and Goloubev ‘become one’, guitar and bass equalling each other both in similarity of tone and accuracy of movement. Sirkis is characteristically ‘on it’ from start to finish, providing perfect rhythmic support with all his customary (and effortless, he would have us believe!) spark and flair – check out his genius on ‘Blue Water’. ‘Amici’, with deft soloing from Goloubev, has a slightly bittersweet tinge, leading to the summer breeze of ‘Lost in London’. ‘Insights’, a track perhaps more classical in feel, has all three players contributing to its exhilarating momentum. Goloubev then provides a sublime and lyrical arco melody to the gentle ‘Moody Leaf’, and the Rothko-inspired ‘Maroon’ shimmers with melding guitar and bass lines. The haunting ‘Steps of Time’ soon breaks into a pacey, ticking Latin dance, Sirkis again the perfect rhythm-maker who inspires the whole trio into a brilliant shared frenzy – arresting stuff! Closing with azure beauty, ‘Under the Sky’ ebbs and flows gracefully, Pysz’s guitar melody and accompaniment so serene, Sirkis subtly embelleshing on Udu.

Recorded at the famed Italian studios of Artesuono, and employing the world-class talent of respected engineer Stefan Amerio, the sound balance is impeccable – pin-sharp clarity throughout. One might choose to half-listen to ‘Insight’ during a heat-induced siesta, though I recommend close and full attention to these extraordinary musicians who demonstrate their obvious connection with each other to produce a genuine and elegant collection of Summer sounds. See Maciek’s website for live appearances – I very much look forward to their Kings Place Festival gig in September 2013.

Maciek Pysz  acoustic and classical guitars
Asaf Sirkis  drums and percussion
Yuri Goloubev  double bass

http://www.maciekpysz.com/

33JAZZ – 33JAZZ231 (2013)