The Impossible Gentlemen
Let´s Get DeLuxe
By Adrian Pallant
Something of a Northern homecoming for guitarist Mike Walker and pianist/keyboardist Gwilym Simcock, a great buzz of excitement preceded the album launch of The Impossible Gentlemen’s third release, Let’s Get Deluxe, at Manchester Jazz Festival last night. Looking back from the stage of the RNCM Theatre, every one of the steeply-tiered seats appeared to be filled, and a warm expression of appreciation greeted this ‘international supergroup’ as they took up their positions. Alongside US colleagues, bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Adam Nussbaum, the name of Iain Dixon has now been added, providing a seamless woodwind and synth addition to the Gents’ distinctive musical character.
The new recording is stacked with layered instrumental textures (most notably Simcock on French horn), yet their live interpretation was a triumph, as revealed in the bright, opening prog-guitar groove of title track Let’s Get Deluxe. Grungy, late-night Dog Time (which Walker explained didn’t quite cut it in his straight Salford accent, but rather pronounced “Dawwwg Tahhhm”) is already an album standout – but here, the guitarist coaxed the most wonderful howls and caterwauls from his fretboard as it melded with Simcock’s double-banked Nord organ tremolo, before erupting into a full-bodied blues rocker with contrasting, mysterious episodes.
Dedicated to late, great pianist John Taylor, A Simple Goodbye is one of the most affecting tributes, and Simcock’s delicate chordal eloquence at the grand piano was matched by Walker’s oh-so-subtle string-bent cries – had a pin dropped in the hall, it would surely have been noticed; and blithe, countrified Speak to Me of Homebreezed along to Walker’s picked guitar and Dixon’s folksy soprano sax improvisations, expounding on the nursery-rhyme simplicity of its original melody. A complex left-hand piano figure introduced shuffling Barber Blues (from the band’s second album), developing to feature delightful bass clarinet from Dixon and lithe bass perambulations from Rodby, with Mike Walker feeling and mouthing every nuance of his octaved extemporisations; and amidst colourful drum soloing, with a few cheeky fake endings, Nussbaum’s cymbal work was positively balletic.
Closing the set with an even more energised version of the new album’s Propane Jane, Simcock jabbed away funkily with his effective Fender Rhodes voicing, and those deliciously soaring electric guitar lines from Walker could happily have been soaked up into the wee small hours by this rapt audience. But with that final number announced after just over an hour, never has a concert melted away so quickly, the whole auditorium rising to its feet in genuine gratitude for the beauty they had witnessed (many later taking to social media to declare it “one of the jazz gigs of the year”). Quite rightly called back for an encore, the band’s known playfulness surfaced: as Mike Walker’s guitar became detached from its strap, he genially muttered, “What ‘ave ah dun ‘ere?”, promptly followed by Gwilym Simcock's subtle teasing in the form of a perfect rendition of the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em theme at the top of the Steinway!
Kenny Barron Trio
Book Of Intuition
By Mac Randall
For some strange reason, the trio that Kenny Barron has been leading for the past decade, featuring bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake, had never cut an album until now. We should all thank the deity of our choice that they finally entered a recording studio, because Book of Intuition is a total delight.
From the first minute of the bossa-nova-ish opening track, “Magic Dance,” previously recorded as “J.J. Dream” with Ron Carter and Lenny White, the high degree of attunement between Barron and his bandmates is obvious. When he lays into a particularly frisky single-note phrase early on in his solo, Blake responds split seconds later with a flourish of ride cymbal and side stick, over which Kitagawa imposes a slight ritard to humorous effect. Next up is “Bud Like,” a blazing Barron performance stoked by Blake’s command of accents and Kitagawa’s dexterous walking. And so it continues through a mix of old and new material, including two pretty selections from Barron’s soundtrack for the 2010 film Another Harvest Moon.
Two standout pieces are by Thelonious Monk, to whom Barron’s had a direct spiritual line for many years. Although he may be a much smoother pianist technically than Monk, the two share a wicked sense of humor. For “Shuffle Boil,” Barron starts off his solo in a surprisingly romantic mood, then delves into deep funk, as if to say he was only kidding with that first bit. Even better is his solo take on “Light Blue,” which alternates fluid Tatum-esque arpeggios with jarring dissonances and ends on a downward glissando that fails perfectly to resolve anything.
By Brian Morton
Through his two latest, most successful records, “Dark Flavour” and “Seldom”, released on CAM JAZZ in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Alessandro Lanzoni has conclusively developed his own features as an artist who puts his talent to good use in an unceasing musical exploration, to meet his inborn communication needs that are funnelled into narrative paths, both fanciful and logical, where form and imagination are strongly balanced. A performer so willing to explore could not but find piano solo as a favourable environment, in which he is able to release his creative energy most genuinely and subjectively: this is how Lanzoni’s latest album, again to be released on CAM JAZZ, was born. Its title, “Diversions”, conveys Alessandro’s ability to create ever-changing sonic landscapes through free improvisation, places where the listener is led confidently by an expert who knows how to manoeuver the roughest paths, mastering the most varied musical languages. For his stylistic versatility, Alessandro Lanzoni perfectly represents a contemporary aesthetic theory that leads the artist to express the many different stimuli of today’s world. But all this is supported by the young pianist’s strong background of classical studies, skilfully absorbed formal patterns and own genuine “jazzy” nature that induce the famous Scottish music reviewer, Brian Morton, to say: “Lanzoni’s music is not so much washed on the banks of the Arno as dipped in the waters of the Mississippi”, joking about his name, oddly sounding like Manzoni, the Italian author of “The Betrothed”.
Recorded in Ludwigsburg on 8 - 9 September 2015 at Bauer Studios.
Recording engineer: Johannes Wohlleben
By Franco Fayenz
Keywords. The first that come to mind are: inventiveness, talent, musicality, technique, composition, fusion, courage. You’ll find other keywords by listening to Enrico Zanisi’s brand new record. One could fill an entire review with them. Once again, the very young player from Rome (born in 1990) shows an amazing maturity in leading his trio through the recording of this sumptuous, kaleidoscopic album. With the support of Joe Rehmer on double bass and Alessandro Paternesi on drums, Zanisi built up a sterling recording, which (nearly) consists of original tunes, except for the closing piece, “Träumerei” by Robert Schumann: less than three minutes of elegance in its purest form, as if, at the end of a splendid musical journey, the trio wanted to say that everything starts from there, the old masters. Indeed, technical command over the instrument is derived from a deep-seated classical background, which enables Enrico Zanisi to explore any land with astonishing confidence and awareness, considering that he is only twenty-three years old. (Jazz by new talent is still rich in influences of all kinds.) It’s difficult to recommend one song, rather than another: from its opening, “Claro”, to its closing dedicated to Schumann, this album is a clear round of enlightened, well-written tunes, with airy moods (“Equilibre”), havens of peace (“Au Revoir”) and captivating rhythms (“Power Fruits”). Keywords (is it also a pun with the “keyboard”, of which Zanisi is a master?) is the ideal sequel to Life Variations, recorded a year ago, which displayed a fully blossomed, defined personality. Same concept (Ermanno Basso in the production room, Rehmer e Paternesi as excellent co-leads), up a notch. The Roman pianist is definitely ready to enter the circle of Italy’s top jazzmen, as already stated by Musica Jazz magazine in 2012.
Recorded in Ludwigsburg on 12, 13 June 2013 at Bauer Studios
Recording engineer: Johannes Wohlleben