The Golden Age of Steam and TrioVD, Pavilion. Les Chisnall, St Anns Church. Orca Trio, Pavilion. Friday, 30th July 2010.
I made it in the nick of time to take my pew for Les Chisnall's solo piano recital at St Anns Church. I'm no stranger to Chisnall' playing, but this was the first time I've had the opportunity to see him solo. This was really wonderful stuff and undoubtably a highlight of the festival for me. Chisnall walks the perfect line between the best of classical, while allowing improvisations to take the pieces in new directions without the constraints of written notes. Chisnall explained that he believes Chopin was one the great improvisers, then treating us to a simple two chord Chopin piece whereafter Chisnall took the harmony in all sorts of strange and wonderful directions. There were all sorts of classical references in here, ranging from Bach to Debussy, all filtered through Chisnall's introspective Bill Evans tinged harmonic lens, culminating in a luscious improvisatory take on a Chisnall fave by english composer John Odgdon. The set concluded with the now familiar Mike Walker standard, 'Clockmaker', summarising a great set perfectly.
It was another 'mjf introduces' triumph from the 'Orca Trio' in the pavilion. I hadn't come across the relaxed confident playing of pianist Dominic Marshall before today, so this was another new one for me. There were some great Evans inspired composition skills on show here, and Marshall's lyrical playing was a delight. The band exhibit a very mature sense of the importance of space in the sound, giving the trio a lovely open and inviting texture. Drummer Dan Gardner knows a thing or two about how to groove as well.
It really struck me seeing them this time that there's striking echoes of the King Crimson approach, something I've heard in a number of the bands at this year's festival. Maybe that's inevitable when you play heavy with odd time signatures and dark tonalities perhaps. Not for everyone this lot, but they're doing their own thing and well worth checking out. It might just be you.