Gwilym Simcock: Jaco Pastorius Tribute – review

Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
The pianist's ingenious trio arrangements capture the joyous lyricism of the short-lived bass-guitarist's compositions

The Pizza Express Jazz Club has begun a new Monday-night series called Soho Interpretations featuring local artists' angles on the canons of jazz legends. One of the most widely admired and voraciously-curious of UK jazz stars – pianist and composer Gwilym Simcock – launched the venture and typically chose an unexpected subject. Simcock's big piano influences – Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and the Englishman John Taylor – might have been his obvious choices, but he went instead for the late bass-guitarist Jaco Pastorius, the short-lived bipolar genius who put his accompanists' instruments in the frontline as both a composer and a mind-blowing player. Much of Pastorius's music has been interpreted by big ensembles and by Weather Report, but Simcock achieved considerable breadth with just the trio of London bassist Laurence Cottle and subtle young drummer James Maddren.

Cottle caught both the vivacity and lightness of Pastorius's bass-guitar sound and its brass-like warmth and penetration as a theme-stating ensemble instrument. Simcock's ingenious arrangements allowed the piano not only to evoke the textures of bigger lineups, but also – on the Joni Mitchell/Pastorius collaboration Jericho – to suggest the cajoling turns and glissandos of Mitchell's voice. Liberty City, a blend of fast grooving and frisky staccato figures, fizzed with the joyousness in much of Pastorius's writing, and Elegant People (from Weather Report's Black Market album) had an Iberian feel that sprang Simcock into fluently-swerving Corea mode, as did the sashaying Young and Fine, which also brought Maddren into busy polyrhythmic conversation with his partners. The gig shook off its initial cool at this point, and Cottle began phrasing in mercurially skipping figures – and Simcock with effortlessly unrepetitive funkiness – on Bright Size Life (from the 1975 Pat Metheny debut album that also revealed Pastorius to a wider world). Simcock's account of Mitchell's Jericho almost stole the set, however, in its softly rocking melancholy, poignant harmonies and patiently spacey basslines. The gig cherished Pastorius's lyricism, when many celebrations of him concentrate on virtuosic hyper-funk.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #GdnGig


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Gwilym Simcock – review

Simcock displayed his increased authority and stature by giving every appearance of having the time of his life, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

13, Jan, 2014 @3:24 PM

Gwilym Simcock/Mike Walker | Jazz review
Ronnie Scott's, London
Jazz supergroups are volatile concoctions, but the Anglo-US quartet of Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum fulfilled its promise – and then some, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

27, May, 2010 @8:46 PM

Article image
Gwilym Simcock/Leszek Możdżer Steinway festival review – 'prizewinning virtuoso skills'

This first-ever partnership between the British and Polish piano stars was a sophisticated and unpredictable sell-out gig, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

24, Mar, 2014 @1:43 PM

Article image
Gwilym Simcock, Vortex, London

Vortex, London

John Fordham

01, Mar, 2006 @11:34 AM

Article image
CD: Gwilym Simcock, Perception


John Fordham

16, Nov, 2007 @12:05 AM

Gwilym Simcock: Blues Vignette | CD review

This UK pianist continues to take ambitious steps, says John Fordham

John Fordham

19, Nov, 2009 @10:17 PM

Jazz review: Julian Arguelles/Gwilym Simcock, Momenta

This album is testament to Arguelles's growing stature on the playing and composing fronts, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

21, May, 2009 @11:10 PM

Gwilym Simcock: Good Days at Schloss Elmau – review
Gwilym Simcock's prodigious creations on the piano straddle the border between classical and jazz to mesmerising effect, writes Dave Gelly

Dave Gelly

16, Jan, 2011 @12:05 AM

Gwilym Simcock/Christine Tobin – review
With Norma Winstone taken ill, the elegiac Irish singer Christine Tobin found her feet quickly with Gwilym Simcock, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

17, Jan, 2012 @7:30 PM

Gwilym Simcock: Good Days at Schloss Elmau
Simcock can play so many things at once that a few listenings are required to tease them out, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

10, Feb, 2011 @10:31 PM