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Will Butterworth Trio

Will Butterworth Trio, The Assembly Rooms, Presteigne, Powys, 16/04/2011.

by Ian Mann

April 18, 2011


Another hugely enjoyable Butterworth performance at the Assembly Rooms.

Will Butterworth Trio

The Assembly Rooms, Presteigne, Powys, 16/04/2011.

Pianist Will Butterworth has been a frequent visitor to Presteigne over the past couple of years or so, always bringing with him a different line up and a fresh set of musical ideas. This date was part of a national tour in support of Butterworth’s excellent new trio album “Hereafter”, a record reviewed elsewhere on this site. Surprisingly “Hereafter” is Butterworth’s first recording in this format, previous releases have been a solo piano set and the innovative duo exploration of Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring” by Butterworth and drummer Dylan Howe.

“Hereafter” is Butterworth’s most accessible album to date and is a good representation of the format he most frequently works in. At Presteigne he was joined by his regular drummer Pete Ibbetson, a composer and bandleader in his own right, plus Danish born, London based bassist Henrik Jensen who proved an admirable replacement for the indisposed Adam King (King shares bass duties on the album with Marcus Penrose). The show was a joint promotion by Mid Border Arts and Tigerfish Productions.

Tonight Butterworth and his colleagues performed a mixture of originals plus a selection of jazz standards to a small but listening and knowledgeable audience. They opened with the standard “Old Folks” with unaccompanied piano subsequently joined by bass and drums as Butterworth embarked upon a flowing solo with Ibbetson switching from brushes to sticks as the tune gathered momentum. Jensen’s bass feature demonstrated his considerable abilities, I think there must be a factory just outside Copenhagen where they churn out star bass players.

From the recent “Hereafter” album “Lie Of The Land” features one of Butterworth’s most attractive melodies. The pieces on the album, plus a handful of even newer compositions which were to feature later in the evening, indicate a growing maturity in Butterworth’s writing. Jensen, also a member of the international North Trio, again impressed, soloing fluently above Butterworth’s circling piano figures.

A brand new Butterworth tune “The Syndicate” was full of quirky syncopations that emphasised the rhythmic qualities of Butterworth’s playing. He’s always demonstrated a strong left hand and this was apparent in his increasingly feverish soloing here as the piece gathered intensity with crashing block chords exploding above Ibbetson’s busy drumming. Jensen’s solo was his most assured to date and there was also a lengthy feature for Ibbetson, a series of drum breaks developing into a full blown solo involving the imaginative use of cymbals plus bass drum.

The standard ” I’m Through With Love” immediately lowered the temperature. Butterworth’s solo piano introduction made full use of the space within the music, each note seeming to hang on the air as Butterworth hunched over the keyboard in concentration. Jensen’ s deeply resonant solo was an excellent demonstration of the lyrical side of his playing and Ibbetson’s drum accompaniment suitably sensitive. The last time he was here Ibbetson’s drums were rather overpowering, so it’s hats off to local here Pete Mustill for his work behind the sound desk, there were no quibbles about the sound balance tonight. The tune ended as it began with Butterworth’s delicate solo piano, beautifully atmospheric in the subdued lighting.

Another new Butterworth tune “Tony’s Stomp” ended the first half on a high. Dedicated to Tony Walton of Tigerfish Productions who originally brought Butterworth to Presteigne this was a delightfully playful piece featuring Butterworth’s Monkish piano and Jensen’s walloping walking bass lines.

The second half opened with the standard “No Moon At All” which incorporated features for both Jensen and Ibbetson before moving on to Butterworth’s “All Our Thoughts” from the new album. Another highly melodic composition the tune was something of a feature for Jensen who delivered a characteristically absorbing solo in addition to negotiating some tricky bass lines throughout the piece.

Butterworth had promised some complicated stuff in the second half and another new tune, “Redress The Balance” was clear evidence of this. The solo piano introduction seemed to borrow from Monk once again (well he is one of Butterworth’s favourites) but the intensity and intricacy of the interplay between the trio members as the tune progressed was reminiscent of Phronesis, the brilliant trio led by Jensen’s compatriot and fellow bassist, Jasper Hoiby. Many audience members felt that this dazzling display of group virtuosity was the highlight of the night.

The standard “Secret Love” cooled things down a little but this was much more than a by the book ballad performance courtesy of Butterworth’s probing harmonies and Ibbetson’s exquisite brush work.

To close the trio returned to the album repertoire with Butterworth’s attractive composition “The Workshop”. Introduced by Jensen at the bass the Jarrett-ish theme here acquired a certain anthemic quality and featured Butterworth in duets with both his partners. With perfect synchronicity Ibbetson’s final gentle cymbal notes coincided with the Assembly Rooms clock tower striking ten o’clock. The bells almost became part of the composition, a magical way to finish a very good second set.

After this an encore was inevitable and the trio returned for a surprisingly forceful version of John Lewis’ composition “Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West”, a tune they have included in their set lists for some time and one they clearly have great fun playing.

This was yet another hugely enjoyable Butterworth performance at the Assembly Rooms. It’s a shame that there weren’t a few more present to see it but it’s possible that the music loving Presteigne public are becoming a little blasé about Butterworth’s abilities. And yet every show has been different, it’s in the nature of jazz musicians that they never stand still, and Butterworth is clearly building up a stock of very good new material already.

With “Hereafter” gaining favourable critical reviews, including 4 stars from Selwyn Harris in Jazzwise magazine, Butterworth’s stock continues to rise.

Try to catch him on this tour if you can. The remaining dates are listed below;

April 19th Dempseys Cardiff
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April 21st Teignmouth Jazz club
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April 23rd Olivers Jazz club Greenwich
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June 11th Cloisters Cafe Saint Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield
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July 22nd The Fleece Chelmsford.?
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