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Gerard Cousins Project - Gerard Cousins Project, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys a fresh interpretation of Miles Davis' seminal "In A Silent Way" album by locally born classical guitarist Gerard Cousins and his sextet. Photograph by Bob Meyrick.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

GERARD COUSINS PROJECT - MILES DAVIS TRIBUTE; INTERPRETING “IN A SILENT WAY”, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017.

The second day of the 2017 Brecon Jazz Festival, co-ordinated by the team from Brecon Jazz Club fronted by Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon, featured three ticketed events at the town’s Guildhall venue.

Topping the bill was pianist Darius Brubeck and his quartet and the schedule also included a performance by visiting Japanese pianist Atsuko Shimada and her trio.

The Guildhall programme began at noon with this intriguing performance by a sextet led by guitarist Gerard Cousins that saw the group undertake a fascinating and absorbing exploration of the music from Miles Davis’ classic 1969 album “In A Silent Way”.

Locally born Cousins is a highly accomplished classical guitarist who studied the instrument at the University of Leeds and at the Enschede Conservatorium in the Netherlands. Since 2005 he has released four albums of solo guitar music on his own record label. As well as exploring the conventional classical and Spanish repertoires he has also investigated the folk music of his native Wales, most notably on the album “Hiraeth” released in 2010.

In 2015 the album “The First Beat is The Last Sound” saw him paying tribute to minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Arvo Part. The album also included a homage to fellow guitarist John McLaughlin suggesting that Cousins also has an affinity for jazz, a fact that the guitarist confirmed in his verbal introduction to today’s show. 

Growing up locally the young Cousins attended Brecon Jazz Festival every year and developed a genuine love for the music. He went on to explain that when he moved to Holland he initially felt very isolated and that the two albums that offered him the most solace were a recording of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos” and Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way”. With this in mind the Gerard Cousins Project was assembled by the guitarist to explore the jazz side of his musical persona and to play his own compositions as well as arrangements of the classic jazz repertoire.

For his Brecon Jazz Festival performance Cousins chose to place his own stamp on the music of “In A Silent Way”, the album commonly regarded as signalling the beginning of Miles Davis’ “electric era”. Tellingly there was no trumpeter in the line up as Cousins sought not to copy the original but to stamp his own identity on the music.

For today’s performance Cousins played acoustic guitar and was joined by David Cooper Orton on the electric version of the instrument with Bristol based Andy Nowak playing both acoustic and electric piano. Dan Newberry played tenor sax and the rhythm team was comprised of Joel McIver on electric bass and Tim Greany at the drum kit.

Cousins chose to present the music as a single entity in a performance lasting a little under an hour. The music was in the spirit of the original album but significantly different with the leader’s acoustic guitar presenting a particularly distinctive instrumental voice. The sound of the classical guitar is rarely heard in jazz and it may be that Cousins has also drawn inspiration from the great Ralph Towner.  As a technician Cousins was extremely accomplished and I was highly impressed with his playing.

Meanwhile the electric guitar of Cooper Orton and the acoustic and electric keyboards of Nowak attempted to recreate something of the textural richness generated by the multiple keyboard players and the guitarist on the original recording namely Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and John McLaughlin. They succeeded brilliantly with Cooper Orton, who describes himself as a “bespoke ambient and jazz guitarist”, deploying his range of foot pedals to good effect to create ambient sound washes and a rich array of colours and textures. Meanwhile Nowak also acquitted himself well, moving between, and doubling up, on acoustic and electric keyboards and using the latter to recreate something of the distinctive Rhodes trill of the original recording.

In this musical tapestry the instrumental lead was passed around the members of the group although the solos weren’t as clearly delineated as in more conventional forms of jazz. In 1969 Davis’ open ended approach and the blending of jazz and rock and of acoustic and electric elements was seen as radical and ground breaking and the record still sounds extraordinary, and totally convincing, nearly fifty years later.

Cast in the Wayne Shorter role nineteen year old saxophonist Dan Newberry also emerged with great credit as he performed with an impressive fluency and maturity, more than holding his own within the kaleidoscope of solos.

Apart from a brief foray into the foreground from McIver the rhythm section were largely content to remain in the background and to lay down the groove. In doing this so capably they provided the framework around which their colleagues could create and excel. The pair were able to build up a considerable head of steam with their implacable grooves on the “It’s About That Time” section of the performance and their playing was an essential component of the overall success of the event.

The sextet’s performance contained all the beauty and mystery of the original and retained much of its spirit but the differing instrumentation brought something fresh and interesting to these now familiar pieces.

A rapt audience at a packed Guildhall listened to this uninterrupted performance with total focus, many of them rising from their seats at the end to give Cousins and his colleagues a tremendous reception. The warmth of the audience reaction was not only a response to the skilled playing of a local hero and his similarly talented colleagues, but also a tribute to the lasting impact of Davis’ original recording.

It may have been relatively brief but this performance helped the first full day of the Festival to get off to a terrific start.

Gerard Cousins Project, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.

Gerard Cousins Project

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Gerard Cousins Project, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.
Photography: Photograph of Gerard Cousins by Bob Meyrick.

Ian Mann enjoys a fresh interpretation of Miles Davis' seminal "In A Silent Way" album by locally born classical guitarist Gerard Cousins and his sextet. Photograph by Bob Meyrick.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

GERARD COUSINS PROJECT - MILES DAVIS TRIBUTE; INTERPRETING “IN A SILENT WAY”, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017.

The second day of the 2017 Brecon Jazz Festival, co-ordinated by the team from Brecon Jazz Club fronted by Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon, featured three ticketed events at the town’s Guildhall venue.

Topping the bill was pianist Darius Brubeck and his quartet and the schedule also included a performance by visiting Japanese pianist Atsuko Shimada and her trio.

The Guildhall programme began at noon with this intriguing performance by a sextet led by guitarist Gerard Cousins that saw the group undertake a fascinating and absorbing exploration of the music from Miles Davis’ classic 1969 album “In A Silent Way”.

Locally born Cousins is a highly accomplished classical guitarist who studied the instrument at the University of Leeds and at the Enschede Conservatorium in the Netherlands. Since 2005 he has released four albums of solo guitar music on his own record label. As well as exploring the conventional classical and Spanish repertoires he has also investigated the folk music of his native Wales, most notably on the album “Hiraeth” released in 2010.

In 2015 the album “The First Beat is The Last Sound” saw him paying tribute to minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Arvo Part. The album also included a homage to fellow guitarist John McLaughlin suggesting that Cousins also has an affinity for jazz, a fact that the guitarist confirmed in his verbal introduction to today’s show. 

Growing up locally the young Cousins attended Brecon Jazz Festival every year and developed a genuine love for the music. He went on to explain that when he moved to Holland he initially felt very isolated and that the two albums that offered him the most solace were a recording of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos” and Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way”. With this in mind the Gerard Cousins Project was assembled by the guitarist to explore the jazz side of his musical persona and to play his own compositions as well as arrangements of the classic jazz repertoire.

For his Brecon Jazz Festival performance Cousins chose to place his own stamp on the music of “In A Silent Way”, the album commonly regarded as signalling the beginning of Miles Davis’ “electric era”. Tellingly there was no trumpeter in the line up as Cousins sought not to copy the original but to stamp his own identity on the music.

For today’s performance Cousins played acoustic guitar and was joined by David Cooper Orton on the electric version of the instrument with Bristol based Andy Nowak playing both acoustic and electric piano. Dan Newberry played tenor sax and the rhythm team was comprised of Joel McIver on electric bass and Tim Greany at the drum kit.

Cousins chose to present the music as a single entity in a performance lasting a little under an hour. The music was in the spirit of the original album but significantly different with the leader’s acoustic guitar presenting a particularly distinctive instrumental voice. The sound of the classical guitar is rarely heard in jazz and it may be that Cousins has also drawn inspiration from the great Ralph Towner.  As a technician Cousins was extremely accomplished and I was highly impressed with his playing.

Meanwhile the electric guitar of Cooper Orton and the acoustic and electric keyboards of Nowak attempted to recreate something of the textural richness generated by the multiple keyboard players and the guitarist on the original recording namely Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and John McLaughlin. They succeeded brilliantly with Cooper Orton, who describes himself as a “bespoke ambient and jazz guitarist”, deploying his range of foot pedals to good effect to create ambient sound washes and a rich array of colours and textures. Meanwhile Nowak also acquitted himself well, moving between, and doubling up, on acoustic and electric keyboards and using the latter to recreate something of the distinctive Rhodes trill of the original recording.

In this musical tapestry the instrumental lead was passed around the members of the group although the solos weren’t as clearly delineated as in more conventional forms of jazz. In 1969 Davis’ open ended approach and the blending of jazz and rock and of acoustic and electric elements was seen as radical and ground breaking and the record still sounds extraordinary, and totally convincing, nearly fifty years later.

Cast in the Wayne Shorter role nineteen year old saxophonist Dan Newberry also emerged with great credit as he performed with an impressive fluency and maturity, more than holding his own within the kaleidoscope of solos.

Apart from a brief foray into the foreground from McIver the rhythm section were largely content to remain in the background and to lay down the groove. In doing this so capably they provided the framework around which their colleagues could create and excel. The pair were able to build up a considerable head of steam with their implacable grooves on the “It’s About That Time” section of the performance and their playing was an essential component of the overall success of the event.

The sextet’s performance contained all the beauty and mystery of the original and retained much of its spirit but the differing instrumentation brought something fresh and interesting to these now familiar pieces.

A rapt audience at a packed Guildhall listened to this uninterrupted performance with total focus, many of them rising from their seats at the end to give Cousins and his colleagues a tremendous reception. The warmth of the audience reaction was not only a response to the skilled playing of a local hero and his similarly talented colleagues, but also a tribute to the lasting impact of Davis’ original recording.

It may have been relatively brief but this performance helped the first full day of the Festival to get off to a terrific start.


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