by Ian Mann
March 14, 2018
The technical prowess of both guitarists was frequently astonishing while Prado more than held his own in such illustrious company and added greatly to the success of the evening.
Maciek Pysz / Jean Guyomarc’h / Matheus Prado Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 13/03/2018.
You have to hand it to Lynne Gornall, prime mover of Brecon Jazz Club and Brecon Jazz Festival.
She has a knack for putting musicians together in one off situations and making these collaborations work – even the most unlikely ones.
There has been something of a ‘gypsy jazz’ theme running through the current season of Brecon Jazz Club with the French guitarist Jean Guyomarc’h making his second visit to The Muse in less than six months – he was here in October as part of a trio featuring fellow guitarist Will Barnes and double bassist/vocalist Ruth Bowen. My review of that performance can be read here;
Guyomarc’h has been a regular visitor to Wales over the course of the last few years , becoming something of an audience favourite in the process. In 2015 the Brittany born musician toured Wales with the group Major Swing featuring rhythm guitarist and vocalist Phillippe Cann and violinist and vocalist Yurie Hu. The tour culminated with a well received performance at Brecon Jazz Festival where the trio were joined by guest performers Remi Harris (guitar) and Ashley John Long (double bass), two highly accomplished local musicians with strong followings in the Welsh Borders and beyond. My review of that performance can be read here;
In 2016 and 2017 Guyomarc’h returned to the principality for further tours, collaborating with local musicians under the group name Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends.
The collaboration with Barnes was perhaps an obvious one, both are players steeped in the music of Django Reinhardt with Barnes adding a touch of bebop and Wes Montgomery to the mix. Pysz, however, is a very different type of guitarist. A frequent presence on the Jazzmann web pages he places a greater emphasis on original material and has released an impressive body of recorded material, the majority of which has been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann site. His main working group is his trio with the Russian born double bass virtuoso Yuri Goloubev and the Israeli born master drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis. He has also recorded in the duo format, firstly with fellow guitarist Gianluca Corona and more recently with the bandoneonist and pianist Daniele di Bonaventura.
The Brazilian born Prado is a mature student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff (RWCMD) and has become an in demand presence on the South Wales jazz scene. He has been a regular visitor to Brecon for both the Festival and the regular club nights. He was part of the bossa nova quartet Ocaso who visited the club in May 2017 and has also featured as a sideman with pianist Atsuko Shimada and vocalist Annette Gregory. He has also worked with the young Cardiff based drummer, composer and bandleader Max Wright.
Pysz, Guyomarc’h and Prado had all performed at Brecon Jazz Club before but never together, making this a genuine one off collaboration. The two guitarists had played together for the first time a couple of nights before at Café Jazz in Cardiff but with Ashley John Long fulfilling the bassist’s role.
Stylistically Guyomarc’h and Pysz are very different as guitarists but the pair were happy to use the gypsy jazz style as a meeting place. It was fascinating to compare their different tones and sounds on guitar. Guyomarc’h was playing a steel string acoustic, a typically incisive gypsy jazz guitar with volume and bite. Meanwhile Pysz’s guitar was a nylon strung Godin acoustic with a much softer tone.
The pair began in duo format with a version of the tune “Made In France”, a piece composed by the French guitarist Bireli Lagrene that had also featured in the Guyomarc’h/Barnes/Bowen set. This lively, highly rhythmic offering saw the two guitarists setting their stalls out early on with some dazzling, virtuoso soloing. Guyomarc’h went first, bending the strings and contorting his fingers into some almost impossible chord shapes. Pysz followed as the duo swapped their lead and rhythm roles and the performance concluded with both players seeming to play lead in a dizzying set of final exchanges.
Prado now joined the pair and the newly constituted trio romped their way through “Stompin’ At The Savoy”, a tune that has become something of a gypsy jazz staple. With Prado anchoring the group the two guitarists were given greater freedom for melodic embellishment and even more room to roam as they again traded dazzling solos, Guyomarc’h once more going first.
Referencing the different nationalities on stage Pysz referred to the trio as a kind of ‘World Union’. Prado’s Brazilian heritage was acknowledged by a version of “Black Orpheus”, written by Luiz Bonfa. Pysz took the first solo and he was followed by Prado. The bassist’s melodic solo was sympathetically accompanied by Guyomarc’h and such was the rapt attention of the audience that you could literally have heard a pin drop. Guyomarc’h then took over the reins for the final solo.
“There Will Never Be Another You” steered the music back more firmly into gypsy jazz territory with Prado’s rapid bass walk fuelling fiery solos from both Pysz and Guyomarc’h with the bassist also enjoying a further feature, again backed by Guyomarc’h alone.
A passage of solo guitar from Pysz introduced the jazz standard “Stella By Starlight”, a piece that was largely a feature for the softer tones of the Polish guitarist but which also included another highly melodic bass solo from Prado.
The trio’s adventurous version of Miles Davis’ “Nardis” saw them taking liberties with keys and time signatures while also including extended, but thoroughly engaging, solos from all three musicians.
A lengthy first set concluded with an exuberant, gypsy jazz style take on Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?”, again with dazzling solos from all three participants. Pysz’s virtuoso display saw him wandering so far from Wonder’s melody that it was positively startling when he reeled it back in again.
It was inevitable that the second set would be shorter, but once again it began in the duo format. During the interval the two guitarists had rehearsed a couple of their own original tunes. The first of these to be heard was a jazz waltz by Guyomarc’h, the title roughly translating as “Waltz For The Sad Tomorrows”. Described by its composer as being “typical French music” the piece had a definite gypsy jazz feel, Django-esque even – allowing for the fact that Monsieur Reinhardt was actually Belgian.
Here a Pysz solo mid-tune was bookended by two excursions from Guyomarc’h.
Prado was added to the group for a version of Pysz’s tune “Fresh Look”, a composition from the guitarist’s “A Journey” album. This was a piece that demonstrated the composer’s almost Metheny like gift for melody and included suitably melodic solos from Guyomarc’h, Prado and Pysz.
A brilliant version of Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” combined boppish melodies with gypsy swing rhythms and yielded another crop of dazzling, virtuoso solos from all three musicians.
The pace dropped a little as a passage of unaccompanied guitar from Guyomarc’h introduced a mid tempo rendition of the jazz standard “Days Of Wine And Roses” with subsequent solos from Guyomarc’h , Pysz and Prado.
The evening concluded on a high note with an extended exploration of Chick Corea’s enduringly popular “Spain” with its superbly executed tricky unison passages and flamenco flourishes. The tune has always been a great vehicle for improvisers and the members of the trio didn’t disappoint as they delivered their final bravura solos and threw in a few tricks like playing above the bridge (Guyomarc’h) or using the bodies of the guitars as auxiliary percussion.
It was all very informal with the musicians pausing to discuss the repertoire along the way but the audience were clearly delighted by the skill and vivacity of the playing. The technical prowess of both guitarists was frequently astonishing while Prado more than held his own in such illustrious company and added greatly to the success of the evening.
By his own admission Pysz doesn’t play gypsy jazz very often, preferring to concentrate on his own original material, but there definitely seemed to be something of a spark between him and Guyomarc’h and I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of these two working together again.
Everybody seemed delighted by the success of yet another fruitful collaboration engineered by Lynne Gornall and with the event generously supported by the Arts Council of Wales’ Noson Allan (or ‘Night Out’) scheme the evening was a financial success too.
Brecon Jazz Club’s next monthly event will see Bristol based pianist and composer Andy Nowak bringing his trio to The Muse on April 10th 2018 in support of his excellent new album “Reset”.
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