The 7th & 8th July saw The Vortex play host to two piano trios namely Richard Fairhurst’s Triptych and the recently crowned Jazz Journalist Association 2010 Musician of the Year, Vijay Iyer in trio with Stefan Crump (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).
Promoting their new album, Amicus, Triptych features American drummer Chris Vatalaro and, for the evening at least, bassist Riaan Vosloo filling in for band regular Jasper Høiby. The music was texturally nimble with both Vosloo and Vatalaro sympathising with every change of mood lead by Farihurst whose lines were delivered with an engaging purpose and unfaltering interest. The piano was present throughout and could have been forgiven if it were to lay out on occasion however with the sidemen perfectly complementing Fairhurst’s moments of inspired lyricism and angular aggression, the band dynamic did not suffer.
Farihurst’s solo piano interludes were reminiscent of John Taylor and buffered the compositions well. The introduction to Dense Fur was introspective and filmic in character and had one imagining a stark, icy landscape. This was most likely due the title conjuring the image of a polar bear in my minds eye (so I won’t pretend this is what it was actually about)!
The music captured moments of Mehldau, John Taylor, EST and Avishai Cohen and was accessibly melodic and intelligently composed placing the album firmly in my “to buy” list.
The headliners proved they were a band not to be missed with their set of “old stuff in new ways [and] new stuff in old ways”, as Iyer put it. The set began with a series of segued tunes that showcased a conversational approach can only develop from playing together over many years with the trio seamlessly moving between collective prevalence and considered solos. Varying wildly in texture and focus the band were drawing the most from each other and themselves and exploited the trio format its full potential.
Iyer’s presence was bold yet accommodating with moments of dark brooding, cathartic block harmony and fearless line playing. Crump’s solos were clear and engaging with strident pizzicato and scraping bow work separating the character of each whilst Gilmore was making the drums speak with a feel that made every new groove as satisfying as the last.
Never afraid to throw in the occasional popular tune, the arrangement of Human Nature had a sense of urgency whilst preserving its accessible lyricism and had both hardened jazz fan and occasional gig goer bobbing their heads approvingly.
The music was always carefully balanced; the mark of a trio that truly know how to play together. When busy the music was uncluttered, when intense it was controlled. It was complex and probing without being pretentious and was performed with a conviction that assured the audience that every note was meant.
Iyer will return to the Vortex alone to perform solo later in the year.
TJL (Tom Leaper)