John Turville is undoubtedly one of the two finest young pianists on the British scene, and indisputably the most versatile one. If proof were needed, he provided plenty of this with his superb John Turville Trio at The Forge last night, providing an excellent 'taster' of a wide range of styles, from originals from their album Midas, the world of classical music, George Shearing and John Taylor to tango and even the world of alternative rock.
Last night saw original bassist Tom Mason returning to the fold, with Ben Reynolds at the traps as usual. An exceptionally tight outfit, the John Turville Trio are something of a force of nature. Turville's superb sensitivity and excellence were perfectly complemented by both Mason and Reynolds.
Mason proved himself an uncommonly sensitive and inventive bassist who clearly has to be counted in the top rank of young bassists. An incredibly fluid and lyrical improviser, Mason's solos were breathtaking and out of this world. He is one of that rare species of bassists who combine crisp, well-defined bass lines with great lyricism.
As for the trap work of Reynolds, what else could one possibly say except, what a brilliant young drummer! Highly imaginative, innovative, sensitive, Reynolds combines a wide palette with excellent time-keeping and timing. Beautifully clear, almost bell-like cymbals were put to excellent use with some outstanding work by Reynolds. His brush, rim and soft stick work were also exceptional. His armoury also included wood block and cow bell, also put to superb use. Although one generally doesn't like to make comparisons, Reynolds, with a style all his own, probably comes closest to master drummer Asaf Sirkis among the young generation. A truly prodigious talent.
Turville himself delivered his usual perfection with customary flair and panache, from delicate filigree work to the driving, hypnotic ostinatos so characteristic of his work, to hard-edged tango rhythms. He is one of those pianists I could happily listen to for hours on end and all night long, with his beautiful finesse and sensitivity of touch and flowing, soaring improvs. Ever inventive, innovative and imaginative, Turville is as inspiring as he is inspired. Last night Turville truly took one's breath away and made one wish the night would not end.
A boon that made this sheer piano trio heaven was that The Forge is equipped with probably the best baby grand - a Steinway - on the scene, and the acoustics are quite exceptional too.
The intimacy of The Forge was further enhanced, in a way, by the - sadly - somewhat below par attendance. However, what the audience may have lacked in numbers, it very well made up for in enthusiasm and appreciation. And ever the perfect pros, the John Turville Trio could as well have been playing a sold-out Albert Hall. Turville also proved himself an excellent raconteur.
Thursday night's two sets by the John Turville Trio at The Forge turned into one of the most stunning and exciting piano trio performances it has been my pleasure to attend in the longer than I care to admit 'career' of my attending live jazz performances, bar none. The sheer variety and breadth of the highly eclectic material itself may have seemed ambitious for most, but for Turville & Co. it was a breeze. One might even say that for John Turville, it's simply a commonplace. Moving, say, from an alt rock-based piece to a classically inspired one to a driven bop number to an elegant tango comes as effortlessly and naturally to Turville as breathing.
With all that, Turville is also the most physically expressive player around, with his whole body and face reflecting every nuance of the music.
The first set opened with a memorable interpretation of the title track of jazz trumpeter and composer Tom Harrell's 1989 album Sail Away, followed by Turville's own notable First Flight from the trio's masterpiece 2009 album Midas. Each piece further upped the ante, and the interpretation of alternative rock band Radiohead's Scatterbrain from their 2003 album Hail To The Thief was a remarkable exploration of the possibilities inherent in much of that exceptional band's material.
Progressing through the dizzying Cyclic Chorale and Fifth Floor, we were treated to the stunning Waltz For Bill Evans, this latter again from the Midas album. An extreme contrast was then provided by the rhythmically intense and angular Elegia Por Los Madres (lit., Elegy For The Mothers), a haunting lament in memory of Argentina's 'disappeared' students in the dictatorship era. This emotional intensity was then thankfully relieved by a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Conception, probably George Shearing's most recorded composition, that Shearing would have been proud of.
There was to be no let-up in the brilliance and intensity in the second set. Pharaoh Ant and the elegant Arc En Ciel took up where the first set had left off, leading via John Taylor's excellent Ambleside to the quirky Albaicin, again from the John Turville Trio's Midas.
The buildup continued with Kenny Wheeler's Sly Eyes to the hard driven and hard driving Hand Maid, a final selection from Midas. No let-up, no relief here with Turville's hallmark unrelenting, hypnotic ostinatos, gradually whipping this elegant piece up to fever pitch until the tension and excitement became almost unbearable. Reynolds' traps - especially his sharply accented rim and tom work - and Mason's crisp bass intensified and accentuated the buildup to perfection. And after the final climactic frenzy, abrupt silence. A truly heart-stopping performance.
After so much excitement, an encore was as inevitable as night following day, and it brought with it some much needed relaxation in the form of Chico Buarque's cool and elegant Quem Te Viu Quem Te Ve.
There was only one flaw - this brought to an end a performance that one would have loved to have continued, on and on...
If you missed the John Turville Trio at The Forge, you'd be fully justified in wanting to kick yourself. You missed a performance that was just stunning, brilliant, and amazing. Absolutely gorgeously beautiful and breathtaking. This was not any kind of typical jazz gig. This was an outstanding, way above average jazz gig and certainly one of the most memorable of the year so far.
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