Monday, October 15, 2012
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
A highly personalised album of contemporary piano jazz that confirms Turville's status as one of the brightest young stars in the UK jazz firmament.
John Turville Trio
(F-ire Presents F-IRE CD 57)
John Turville is one of the UK’s most imaginative and versatile pianists and has worked in a wide range of formats across a similarly wide variety of genres. Jazz, classical and tango all come within Turville’s remit and elements of all three can be found on “Conception”, the eagerly awaited follow up to 2010’s acclaimed “Midas”, also released on the F-ire presents imprint.
For the new recording Turville retains the services of the trio which made the first album such a success with Chris Hill featuring on double bass and Ben Reynolds at the drums. Three pieces add the distinctive cello sounds of Eduardo Vassallo who leads his own tango group El Ultimo Tango of which Turville is a member.
The programme consists of seven Turville originals, one piece from bassist Chris Hill, a cover of Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain” plus the title track from the pen of the late George Shearing. The music touches on all of Turville’s bases and the result is a highly personalised album of contemporary piano jazz that confirms Turville’s status as one of the brightest young stars in the UK jazz firmament.
The album commences with “Pharaoh Ant”, a rhythmically inspired piece that I suspect is yet another dedication to London based drummer Pharaoh Russell. There’s an urgent,contemporary feel to this piece with drummer Ben Reynolds’ crisp, brightly detailed drumming to the fore alongside Turville’s inventive and lively pianistics. Reynolds’ drum feature which includes the chatter and clatter of sticks on rims alongside rolling toms is a particular delight. Fans of Phronesis are likely to find much to enjoy here.
The highly effective take on Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain” highlights the soloing abilities of the excellent Chris Hill alongside the flowing lyricism of Turville’s piano and the delicate filigree of Reynolds’ drumming.
Vassallo joins the group for a suite of three tunes beginning with the edgy, densely rhythmic “Barrio Once”. Here his dark, dramatic, brooding cello stabs add drama to a piece that combines Turville’s tango and classical leanings. The cellist also appears on the following “Milonga” another piece that explores Turville’s tango roots and which is, if anything, even more intense and impassioned. This is stirring, sometimes challenging stuff and the mood is carried over into “Elegia” the final segment of a triptych that so successfully explores the interstices between tango, classical and jazz.
After the intensity and rigour of Turville’s tango suite the flowing lyricism of Chris Hill’s lovely “Old Park Avenue” almost comes as light relief. Turville’s lightness of touch at the piano is complemented by the delicacy of Reynolds’ cymbal work with the composer’s deeply resonant bass undertow holding the piece together.
“Cyclic Chorale” is more freely structured with the press release stating it to be “using an inverted row based on a cyclical number and harmonised freely”. There’s certainly an openness about the music and a sense of space and freedom, you can almost hear the members of the trio thinking. For the listener the overall effect is strangely calming.
“Fifth Floor” marks a return to the rhythmic approach of the opener and features Hill extensively alongside more lyrical interludes from Turville at the piano. Reynolds’ clipped, edgy rhythms keep the piece bubbling along nicely with the drummer featuring more prominently as the tune progresses as he enters into a sparky, energetic dialogue with Turville.
“Arc-En-Ciel” is a ballad inspired by the writing of saxophonist Julian Arguelles, who along with pianist John Taylor remains one of Turville’s primary British influences. The piece has something of Arguelles’ melodic sensibility and is beautifully performed by this most interactive of trios. Hill’s highly expressive bass solo is a particular highlight and his superlative playing is well complemented by Turville’s keyboard lyricism and Reynolds’ sympathetic and delicate brushwork.
For all his contemporary jazz leanings and his fascination with tango and classical structures Turville is, at heart, a jazzer. Hence his choice of George Shearing’s “Conception” as the album’s title track. Shearer’s sense of melody and swing remains intact in a contemporary context and Ben Reynolds’ crowns his excellent contribution with a fiery drum feature.
“Conception” is a more spiky and varied recording than its predecessor but is no less enjoyable for that. The Turville group rank among the best of a very good bunch of contemporary jazz piano trios and the leader’s willingness to expand his horizons suggests that there is much more to come.
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
The sun shines on the final day of an excellent festival.
Ian Mann soaks up the vibes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.