Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heading South West South North in Vienna

Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum, Porgy and Bess Jazz Club, Vienna, Austria. Sunday June 6th 2010

Last month I was lucky enough to catch the 'Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum' group in Vienna at the Porgy and Bess Jazz and Music Club (seemingly implying jazz isn't music?) . Once out of the Vienna sunshine and down deep in the basement of the club two floors underground, it seemed surprisingly unstrange to be bumping into a few familiar faces.

The set opened with guitarist Mike Walker's warm and welcoming 'Clockmaker', further enhancing the homely feel. The legendary Steve Swallow on electric bass went straight in for a solo, feet apart to anchor himself to the ground while leaning forward, his fingers wrapping the fretboard where the neck joins the body to project flowing and melodic lines.

Pianist Gwilym Simcock is rapidly gaining an enviable reputation, and on the basis of tonight's performance, it's not hard to see why. His tune, 'You Won't Be Around To See It' grooved with a satisfying angularity that really dug in when both Walker and Simcock laid some punchy and aggressive lines over the top.

The band delivered the incendiary bop of Walker's 'Laughlines' at hyper-real speed, leaving the audience almost literally gasping for breath. The precision, pace and power of the complex tune head and the improvisations from Walker and Simcock had to be heard to be believed on this one, with all members playing out of their skins.

It was over to bluesy street for a fine take on 'Hey Pretty Baby' written by drummer Adam Nussbaum, a tune based on a simple blues riff in homage to legends such as Howlin' Wolf. Walker overlaid the sound with some fade-in textures before biting in hard with piercing overdriven string bends and feedback sustained harmonic headslices. Walker has a masterful ability to coax the guitar and amplifier to find the feedback sweetspot seemingly with ease. Simcock responded with a side-swiping almost Bach-like figure before taking the harmony down a delightfully airy dorian avenue. Nussbaum all the while cruised the deep groove, always resonating sympathetically to the group's ebb and flow. His dynamic range and sensitivity seems to extend beyond human hearing.

The evening concluded with the Steve Swallow favourite, 'Ladies in Mercedes'. Simcock led us in with some muted piano string percussion before Swallow treated us to a liquid gold flowing solo. A warm ending to a great jazz evening in the capital of classical music.

I grabbed Mike for an interview about the tour while I was on his advanced Jazz Guitar Master Class Retreat in Andalucia, Spain last week (highly recommended!). I'll be posting that in a few days.

Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum will be on tour again very soon and will be playing at the Royal Northern College of Music on the 27th July as part of the Manchester Jazz Festival. One not to miss me thinks.

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