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Review

Rory Simmons Quartet

Live: Dempsey’s, Cardiff 16/09/2008

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Photography: Tim Dickeson

by Ian Mann

September 19, 2008

/ LIVE

Some dazzling playing and with the musicians happy to take risks and have some musical fun

Trumpeter Rory Simmons plays in Jamie Cullum’s touring band as well as being a key member of the North London based Loop Collective. He brought his talented young quartet to Cardiff for this gig at Dempsey’s in Castle Street in the room that once housed the famous Four Bars venue.

Joining Simmons were fellow Loop Collective members Ivo Neame on piano (he is also an accomplished alto saxophonist) and Dave Smith at the drums. Smith is also a member of the Loop band Outhouse and also plays with Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance. Taking over on bass from the advertised Jasper Hoiby was Simmons’ fellow Cornishman Ryan Trebilcock.

The quartet played two sets in which they stretched out on some lengthy tunes, composed in the main by Simmons but also including a couple of standards. They kicked off by romping boisterously through US drummer Bill Stewart’s composition “7.5”, building from Simmons’  unaccompanied trumpet intro through solos by Neame and Trebilcock to a trumpet/drums interface between Simmons and Smith. In a small venue Simmons was able to play off mic for the duration of the evening, something he seemed to enjoy.

Simmons’ own “Tongue Tied” was typical of the evening’s music, harmonically and rhythmically complex with a high degree of improvised content. Once again there were solos from Simmons, Neame and Trebilcock all powered by the amazing polyrhythmic drumming of Smith who was at the heart of the music.

Another Simmons original, “Cautious” saw him switch to flugelhorn for a lyrical introduction in the company of Neame’s piano. As the rhythm section kicked in Simmons’ playing became more urgent and blues inflected with slurred and smeared notes. Superficially a ballad, this also embraced more forceful styles of playing.

They closed the first set by improvising expansively on the standard “The Song Is You” with Neame outstanding on piano, his playing full of dazzling right hand runs and clusters. Simmons was back articulating crisply on trumpet and once again trading licks with Smith. It transpired that this was Trebilcock’s first gig with the band but he rose to the challenge soloing superbly and providing driving accompaniment.

All in all, it was a good first half, a little loose at times but with some dazzling playing and with the musicians happy to take risks and have some musical fun with the material.

After a short break Simmons’ intriguingly titled “All Teeth & Importance” saw the trumpeter lead his band through some spirited passages of almost free playing.

“Empty Spaces” co-written by Simmons and the Norwegian singer Elizabeth Nygard saw the leader take up the flugel horn for an abstract ballad redolent of the ECM style. Neame’s limpid piano was heard in duet with Trebilcock before the bassist took the lead for a resonant solo. Neame was then heard in conjunction with Smith’s delicate cymbal washes.

“Abacus” saw the composer stick with flugelhorn for an unaccompanied opening leading into a tricky bebop inspired piece. Simmons showed remarkable technical expertise in delivering complex lines on the flugel. There was also a bravura solo from Neame and finally some stunning pyrotechnics from the outstanding Smith.

With time still for one more number Simmons reverted to trumpet for the standard “I Fall In Love Too Easily”. Delivered in ballad style this featured lyrical solos from Trebilcock and Neame and a solo trumpet cadenza from Simmons to close.

The band were well received by a small but knowledgeable and appreciative audience. Early on the crowd had been pitifully small but things improved for the second half. Local musicians Gareth Roberts and Paul Jones were among those watching and I may have spotted Jonny Bruce too.

This was complex music played with great technical facility by a highly talented young band. Some of the playing was probably a little too abstract for general consumption but this was music worthy of a larger audience especially bearing in mind the huge crowds just up the road at the Brecon Jazz Festival. Where do they all hide for the rest of the year? Well done though to all that were there.
Keep supporting jazz in the Welsh Capital.

For details of jazz events in Cardiff go to;
http://www.myspace.com/dempseysjazz
http://www.cafejazzcardiff.com
http://www.cardiffjazz.org- the site of Cardiff Jazz Society

For more information on tonight’s artists go to http://www.loopcollective.org

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