The John Turville Trio at Kings Place last Saturday presented one of the few opportunities this year to hear this exceptional trio live. What made it even more attractive was that Saturday night's performance also included John Turville's exciting new tango suite (with cellist Adam Spiers) which had received its premiere, also at Kings Place, early in the summer. Having sadly had to miss this, I certainly was not going to miss it again!
Thus I found myself at the very distinctive, very 21st century styled - i.o.w., cold and clinical - Kings Place (in an equally distinctive building shared with Guardian Newspapers) on a very balmy last Saturday night. (And this was 1st October?)
Yet, the somewhat cold and clinical appearance and atmosphere was more than made up for by the superb acoustics of Hall 2 and its excellent piano. Especially so at the sensitive hands of one of our very finest young jazz piano maestros, John Turville.
Turville will, of course, need no further introduction here. His trio was, on the night, made up of Chris Hill, the original bassist familiar from the John Turville Trio's outstanding, award-winning album, Midas, and drummer extraordinaire Stephen Keogh, familiar here already as a corner stone of the Frank Harrison Trio, and with a string of credits with other major, including veteran, artists too long to go into detail here. For Turville's tango suite, they were joined by special guest, the excellent cellist Adam Spiers. An amazing all-star line-up then for what was to turn out to be an amazing gig.
Hall 2 of Kings Place turned out to be very well attended by a most appreciative crowd. This is always very heartening and a delight in itself, and especially so for something as special as the John Turville Trio at Kings Place, one of the very special gigs of the year as it turned out.
Set One started off as the evening was to continue throughout - magically. With a mix of elegant originals, both newer and from previous albums including Midas, and Tom Harrell's classic Sail Away, Turville & Co. kept building up the excitement with flawless ensemble playing and superb on the edge soloing all round, to the closing highlight of the first set, Turville's tango suite, for which they were joined by the most excellent Adam Spiers on cello. Consisting of Barrio Once, Elegia, and Milonga, the latter a piano and cello duet, the suite eloquently showed off one of Turville's many other facets, here, tango, of which he is also one of the very finest pianists on the UK scene. Outstandingly beautiful compositions in the 'avant-tango' vein yet maintaining strong links to Astor Piazzolla's tango nuevo and even classic tango roots, all three pieces of the suite were executed with beautiful precision and panache, yet sometimes gave the impression of the freedom of 'tango played on the grill,' or tocar a la parrilla as it is known to Argentine tango players. Indeed, it came quite close also to tango jazz territory.
While this suite may not be sufficient to justify an album of its own, one would very much hope to see it as part of a Turville tango album, or at least as part of a general John Turville Trio album, soon.
The sheer emotional power of Turville's tango suite cannot be overstated. It pulls at the heart strings like few composers since Piazzolla have achieved, Luis Borda excepted. It will moisten the eyes of any but the most insensitive listener. I also found myself virtually speechless after this exquisite and most intense performance, nay, experience.
Hence, the interval was most welcome indeed after so much intensity and high energy.
The second set continued with the same kind of mix of material as the first part of the first set, starting off with the wonderful Cole Porter standard Everything I Love and including a laudable new original by bassist Chris Hill, Old Park Avenue.
There was likewise no let up in intensity, rather, it kept building up and up. The soloing - with Turville generous as ever in giving his bandmates Hill and Keogh equal time for this - kept pushing the envelope to quite dizzying heights. Ever inventive both harmonically and rhythmically, never one to fear taking chances, Turville was just sheer magic, not forgetting his characteristic hypnotic ostenatos. And no-one would have dared as much as whisper a word during Hill's equally adventurous bass solos.
Keogh's phenomenal prowess likewise had one on the edge of ones seat and forget counting, relying on instinct or whatever you may wish to call it instead and trusting Keogh's clockwork accuracy.
Relief from all the intensity only came with Turville's hauntingly beautiful arrangement of George Shearing's immortal classic Conception, bringing this most satisfying evening to an equally satisfying, mesmerising close.
One really did not wish for the John Turville Trio at Kings Place to end, but like all good things, to an end it had to come. And a more fitting, magical closer than Conception it would be hard to imagine.
The John Turville Trio at Kings Place last Saturday night was one of those very special jazz gigs. So special, had it not been for the music itself you could have heard a pin drop!
Sheer enchanting delight and excitement.
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