by Ian Mann
December 16, 2022
This is a trio that has developed an instinctive and impressive rapport during their three years together and a distinctive and unhurried approach to their material.
“Live at The Greenbank”
Alex Veitch – piano, Ashley John Long – double bass, Alex Goodyear – drums
Yetii is an acoustic jazz trio featuring the Bristol based pianist and composer Alex Veitch plus the South Wales based musicians Ashley John Long (double bass) and Alex Goodyear (drums).
The trio have had a regular monthly Thursday night residency at the Bristol venue The Greenbank since 2019, necessarily interrupted by Covid of course. Nevertheless the group have built up a devoted following with many of their appearances being sold out. They have featured numerous guest performers, among them saxophonists Alex Merritt and Iain Ballamy, but for this début release the focus is on the core trio and the album captures a live performance by Yetii documented at The Greenbank on 7th July 2022.
Ironically it’s leader Alex Veitch that I know the least about. I’m very familiar with the playing of Long and Goodyear, both of whom have appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on multiple occasions, usually in live performances at the Brecon or Black Mountain (Abergavenny) jazz clubs. They also appear frequently at another of my favourite jazz haunts, the Queens Head in Monmouth.
Research reveals that Veitch is a classically trained pianist who was regarded as something of a child prodigy. A graduate (2013) of both Cambridge University and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London he has played at leading London jazz venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Vortex and Café Oto. Veitch moved to Bristol in 2017 and has established himself on the city’s music scene, working prolifically as a sideman across a variety of different musical genres as well as leading Yetii and the electro-jazz outfit AvTrio, in which he plays electric keyboards.
Long is a virtuoso double bassist who plays right across the jazz spectrum, from backing singers on standards, to accompanying original composers such as pianist Dave Jones, to the cutting edge challenges of free jazz. A dazzling soloist both with and without the bow he is also in demand as a classical player, specialising in the baroque. He’s one of the most astonishing bass soloists I’ve ever seen and if he lived in London rather than South Wales he would surely be much better known.
Alex Goodyear is a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff and performs regularly on the South Wales and Bristol jazz scenes. He’s been a great friend of the Black Mountain Jazz Club and its annual Wall2Wall Festival, leading the Festival ‘house band’ and putting together a number of special themed events such as “The Journey of Trad” and “Remembering Charlie Parker” specifically for the Festival. He has also conducted a series of drum workshops. Like Long he has played across a variety of jazz genres from trad to free and his versatility and enthusiasm has recently secured him a high profile gig with pianist John Law’s Re-Creations band. Interestingly Long has been a member of one of Law’s previous groups, the Congregation quartet, and appeared on the pianist’s excellent 2020 release “Configuration”.
Turning now to this début Yetii release. Veitch’s liner notes set the scene;
“As we enter there’s a warm applause to celebrate the start of the show. A still July evening, the room is filled. I remember the music feeling particularly ‘easy’ that evening. I felt like I could sit back and enjoy it. Yetii feels like it takes its own course, group improvisations made up of sparse, interlocking, minimalist fragments ; a shared single voice that ebbs and flows. It’s not something we’ve ever specifically practised.
When I’m writing the music I’m always imagining The Greenbank where we’ll perform it. This gig, and that space, are the musical home of this group, and so it seems fitting that it’s this live recording that makes its way into your hands in the form of our début full length release.
So here you are, a musical snapshot. We played our full set of original tunes as a trio at The Greenbank for the first time and this is how it sounded. Enjoy.”
This six tune set features five Veitch originals and finishes with a striking arrangement of the Carole King / Gerry Goffin song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”.
The programme commences with the Veitch original “Spring”, a lyrical piece that highlights the delicate side of the band. Developing out of the leader’s introductory piano motif it incorporates a melodic double bass solo from Long and particularly sensitive drum and cymbal work from Goodyear. Long’s solo is rapturously received by the Greenbank audience and the music subsequently gathers momentum during the course of Veitch’s own solo, before closing with a gentler piano led passage that mirrors the introduction. Veitch has cited musicians as diverse as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Fats Waller and Brad Mehldau as sources of inspiration and it’s the spirit of Evans that informs this opening piece, and much of the recording overall.
“Enough” begins in a similar vein with an unaccompanied piano intro again sketching the way before double bass and Goodyear’s skittering drum grooves steer the music in a more vigorous direction, reminiscent at times of E.S.T. That said Yetii’s music is full of twists and turns, dynamic contrasts and unexpected juxtapositions, so this section is followed by a quieter, more lyrical passage that is closer in mood to the opener.
Veitch has a gift for melody and this shines through on the beautiful ballad “Asking”, his piano lyricism augmented by the sensitive performances of Long and Goodyear, with the latter providing some exquisitely delicate brushwork. As the music slowly gathers momentum it takes on something of an anthemic quality before shading off into something more abstract and freely structured. Finally there’s a reprise of the achingly beautiful opening theme.
Long’s bass introduces “Summer”, his melodic sense complemented by a deep, resonant tone. Piano and brushed drums join to offer sympathetic support and Veitch eventually takes over the melodic duties as the piece develops. As on so many of these pieces the emphasis is on space, melody and beauty.
“Grounded” commences with a passage of unaccompanied piano, subsequently joined by bass and brushed drums. Veitch continues to gently and thoughtfully develop his melodic ideas, augmented by Long’s anchoring bass and the swish of Goodyear’s brushes. It’s wholly appropriate that the drummer hosted a Brushes Workshop at the 2022 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival.
Finally we hear King and Goffin’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, delivered in Yetii’s now familiar ‘house style’ in a spacious arrangement that brings out the essential melancholy of the song. Gently melodic piano and bass are again complemented by sublime brush work before Veitch stretches out more expansively, while still maintaining the essence of the piece.
Veitch’s classically honed technique is apparent throughout this recording and his lightness of touch at the piano, an acoustic upright I believe, is perfectly complemented by the sympathetic and empathic playing of Long and Goodyear. This is a trio that has developed an instinctive and impressive rapport during their three years together and a distinctive and unhurried approach to their material.
“Live at The Greenbank” is comparatively short by modern CD standards but what it lacks in terms of duration it more than makes up for in terms of quality. I’ve long been an admirer of the playing of Long and Goodyear but I was also hugely impressed by both the playing and the writing of Alex Veitch. It’s very much a live recording with audience noises present in the mix but in no way does this detract from the quality of the performances.
I’ve yet to see Yetii perform live myself, having been unable to attend any of the dates on their recently completed (November 2022) UK tour. However Veitch’s website suggests that they’ll be coming to Black Mountain Jazz to play a regular club date in April 2023. On the evidence of this recording that’s already something that I’m really looking forward to.
“Live at The Greenbank” is available via http://www.alexanderveitch.com
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