Gwilym Simcock – review

Kings Place, London
Simcock displayed his increased authority and stature by giving every appearance of having the time of his life

As virtuosos go, Gwilym Simcock is a pretty self-effacing and generous one. The young British pianist's stature and authority on a bandstand has grown over the past year – though he has adjusted to this not with haughtiness, but by giving every appearance of having the time of his life. Simcock has just decisively directed two Kings Place concerts devoted to his prolific and varied creativity.

The Friday showsaw him joined by French jazz musicians Céline Bonacina (saxes) and Michel Benita (bass), and all three contributed pieces. Playing baritone, Bonacina united free-improv multiphonics to slyly camouflaged jazz-ballad swing and then percussively spiky uptempo music. Benita's exciting Up from the Hip was a tempestuous fusion of fierce detonations and lissome free-swing. Simcock then recast his own graceful A Joy Forever and the zigzagging Antics (originally duet pieces for his piano and Russian double-bass maestro Yuri Goloubev) into a subtle dialogue for the French guests. Then he led a three-way stomp on which he unwrapped his Keith Jarrett affections on the jubilantly-rocking piano part.

The second set introduced Goloubev and drummer Martin France for Simcock's harmony-juggling Shades of Pleasure, featuring the bassist's rapturous tone with the bow, Simcock's textural imagination and France's subtle brushwork. Versatile classical violinist Thomas Gould and dynamic cellist Gabriella Swallow then joined for Simcock's Simple Tales suite, a sophisticated fusion of cinematic, love-ballad lyricism, and yearning cello reveries that evolved into luxuriously gliding violin/cello dances. Simcock's byzantine Barber Blues uncorked Gould's improv instincts, but the pianist's unaccompanied encore on Every Time We Say Goodbye – in which the famous theme slipped almost unnoticed from a boldly morphed harmony – almost stole a memorable show.

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John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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