by Ian Mann
April 14, 2019
Latchin is a worthy addition to the front rank of British mainstream jazz pianists. This is an album that will delight many listeners.
Gabriel Latchin Trio
“The Moon and I”
(Alys Jazz AJ 1502)
London based pianist Gabriel Latchin made a favourable impression with jazz commentators and audiences alike with the release of his début album, simply titled “Introducing Gabriel Latchin Trio”.
For this keenly anticipated follow up Latchin has stuck with the tried and tested piano trio format, retaining the services of Josh Morrison in the drum chair but with Dario Di Lecce replacing Tom Farmer on double bass. Latchin and Di Lecce recently worked together as part of a quartet led by vibraphonist Nat Steele, appearing on Steele’s 2017 album “Portrait of the Modern Jazz Quartet”, a recording which paid homage to Milt Jackson, John Lewis et al. My review of this recording can be read here;
Prior to his leadership début Latchin had been best known for his role as an in demand sideman. One of his most prestigious engagements came in December 2016 when the American bassist, composer and band-leader Christian McBride selected him as an accompanist at a major one off event at London’s Wigmore Hall, a concert that also featured the voice of opera singer Renee Fleming.
Others with whom Latchin has worked include saxophonists Ronnie Cuber, Jean Toussaint, Grant Stewart and Alex Garnett and vocalists Salena Jones and Sara Dowling. He played a key role on Dowling’s recent album release “Two Sides Of Sara” as he performed a series of intimate duets with the singer on an acclaimed recording that also featured organist Bill Mudge. Review here;
Latchin has also played with large ensembles such as the London Jazz Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He was recently appointed Musical Director for the new theatre show featuring vocalist Claire Martin and saxophonist, vocalist, band leader and all round entertainer Ray Gelato.
As a young teenager Latchin was introduced to the piano by his grandmother, Dorothy Paton and turned on to jazz by the playing of Oscar Peterson. He has also cited Bill Evans, Barry Harris, Nat King Cole, Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton and Bobby Timmons as being among his other pianistic heroes. Other musical influences include saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane, trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Billy Higgins.
Initially Latchin followed an academic career, graduating with a first class honours degree in economics from Edinburgh University. After performing on the Edinburgh jazz scene he moved to London to study jazz piano at the Guildhall School of Music, again graduating with first class honours. His musical mentors include leading pianists such as Aaron Goldberg, Peter Martin and David Berkman plus guitarist Peter Bernstein and saxophonist Grant Stewart.
The title “The Moon and I” is taken from a line in the standard “Poor Butterfly”, a piece that Latchin performed at that memorable 2016 concert with McBride and Fleming. The piece is one of seven standards that appear on the new album, the remaining four tracks being Latchin originals, the majority of them inspired by family life, the pianist being the father of two young sons. Paternal duties took him away from the London jazz scene for some time, but this talented performer has returned with a vengeance over the past couple of years.
With four originals and seven standards “The Moon and I” follows an identical format to the début with Latchin’s liner notes providing brief insights into the inspirations behind the originals. As his list of inspirations suggests Latchin is very much a ‘mainstream’ jazz pianist, his playing steeped in the jazz tradition and owing little to latter day influences in the mould of E.S.T
Album opener, “Arthur Go”, a dedication to Latchin’s eldest son is based on the chords of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” and gets the album off to a lively start with Morrison introducing the piece at the drums before combining with Di Lecce to move the piece along as Latchin solos in breezy, fluent fashion, his playing bright and inventive. Morrison, the drummer of choice for vocalist Stacey Kent also enjoys a series of briskly executed drum breaks.
Written by Raymond Hubbell and with lyrics by John L. Golden “Poor Butterfly” was in turn inspired by the Puccini opera “Madame Butterfly”. Dating back to 1916 it almost pre-dates jazz but becomes an effective vehicle for improvisation in the hands of the Latchin trio. The leader introduces the piece solo, I think there’s a quote from Puccini in there, before being joined by double bass and brushed drums. The trio’s take on the piece is lyrical, but gently swinging, with Latchin’s extemporisations at the piano accompanied by immaculate bass and drums.
“Peek A Bu” is Latchin’s tribute to the late, great drummer and bandleader Art Blakey, also known as Buhaina. It also pays homage to pianists McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton and Bobby Timmons, who all passed through Blakey’s ‘jazz academy’ The Jazz Messengers. Broadly written in the ‘hard bop’ style that characterised Blakey’s groups this is a minor blues that the trio tackle with gusto with Di Lecce’s propulsive bass and Morrison’s colourful, Blakey-esque drumming fuelling Latchin’s expansive and inventive piano soloing as he salutes some of his musical heroes. Di Lecce also features with a vigorously plucked bass solo.
“Brigi, My Dear” is Latchin’s tribute to his wife of fifteen years and is a jazz waltz that represents a wholly original composition, even though the title may be a nod to Monk, and the form to Evans. Introduced by the composer at the piano it’s delightful dedication that combines brightness with lyricism. There’s a real joy to Latchin’s playing as his fingers dance around the keyboard, supported by agile bass and drums. Di Lecce demonstrates the gentler side of his playing with a melodic bass solo as Morrison provides suitably deft brushwork.
The standard “Baubles, Bangles And Beads” (Borodin/Wright/Forrest) is delivered at a fast clip with Latchin swarming all over the keyboard, accompanied by Di Lecce’s rapid bass walk and Morrison’s crisp, brisk drumming. A playful and energetic stop-start arrangement sees the trio toying with time signatures and includes an extended drum feature for the excellent Morrison, who seizes the opportunity with relish.
“Polka Dots And Moonbeams” (Van Heusen, Burke), slows things down again as unaccompanied piano ushers in a tender ballad arrangement featuring gently lyrical piano, melodic double bass and delicately brushed drums.
“So Danco Samba” (Jobim/Moraes) begins in suitably Brazilian fashion with Morrison’s drums prominent, but mutates into what Latchin has described as “a 60s Blue Note boogaloo type vibe” - “I wanted to have a Latin groovy work” he explains. The trio’s treatment of the piece is suitably sprightly, with Morrison again featuring strongly, and clearly loving every minute of this enjoyably quirky arrangement.
Latchin turns to the blues for a gently swinging version of “In Love In Vain”
(Kern/Rubin), which features an exceptional bass solo from Di Lecce that combines melodicism and resonance with great dexterity. Latchin’s own soloing is effortlessly fluent and Morrison is typically impeccable behind the kit as he offers suitably tasteful and sympathetic support.
Blakey is referenced obliquely again by Latchin’s choice of “Zambia”, written by one time Messengers trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938-72). The piece first appeared on Morgan’s 1966 Blue Note album “Delighfulee”. Latchin and his colleagues tackle the tune with relish, the leader’s agile piano soloing accompanied by vibrant and propulsive bass and drums with Morrison enjoying a series of brisk, colourful drum breaks.
“Ill Wind” (Arlen/Koehler) is given a slowed down, melancholic arrangement with a bluesy, after hours feel paced by Di Lecce’s languorous bass and featuring Latchin’s gospel tinged piano and Morrison’s neat, economical drumming. The overall effect is slinky and beguiling with Di Lecce’s bass coming to the fore to deliver an excellent solo during the later stages of the tune.
The album concludes with “Pippy’s Delight”, Latchin’s dedication to his younger son, Oscar. Again based on Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” it bookends the album nicely and, almost inevitably, exhibits similar characteristics to its sibling “Arthur Go”. Similarly lively and playful it’s delivered at a rapid pace with all three group members enjoying moments in which to demonstrate their considerable individual skills, but all within the framework of a spirited but disciplined trio performance.
Like its predecessor “The Moon and I” is immaculately recorded with producer Latchin working with an engineering team of Simon Hendry, Gerry O’Riordan and Peter Beckmann.
Although it offers few surprises the music is superbly played by a very well balanced trio who have developed an excellent rapport and this is an album that will delight many listeners. Latchin is a worthy addition to the front rank of British mainstream jazz pianists and fans of Dave Newton, Brian Dee and the late Brian Lemon will doubtless be appreciative of Latchin’s work.
The Gabriel Latchin Trio are touring in support of this new album with forthcoming dates listed below;
28 April - Herts Jazz, St Albans
3rd May - South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell
4th May - The Bear Club, Luton
8th May - Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London *
28th May - Electric Theatre, Guildford (quintet performance **)
31st May - Newport Methodist Church, Isle of Wight
8th June - The Verdict, Brighton
13th June - All Saints Church, Hove
19th July - Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead
* with Steve Brown on drums.
** with Sam Braysher on saxophone, Steve Fishwick on trumpet and Marianne Windham on bass.
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Gabriel Latchin: http://www.gabriellatchin.com