Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Theatre of the Absurd

Simcock Meets Charnock - London Jazz Festival, Purcell Room, Southbank, London. 12th November 2010

Well this was new and strange – improvised jazz with improvised movement, Gwilym Simcock on the piano with maverick Nigel Charnock on 'movement'. Initially the whole thing seemed somewhat absurd. Simcock started with some very quiet and reflective playing that Charnock soon started contorting to. The thud of his feet on the stage was really quite loud relative to the quiet piano, and after having adjusted to the absurdity, I then became frustrated at this audible intrusion. After a short while though, it all started to make sense and became quite good fun. After the first piece Charnock explained his hyperactivity, admitting that he’d been dreading the performance, and it’s true that the intensity did seem a strange partner to Simcock’s contemplative opening gambit.

Charnock began to calm down, partly through exhaustion I suspect, and the improvisatory interplay between the two started to gel and make more sense. Simcock did a good job of trying to match Charnock’s movement with a few rhythmic punches, but there were quite a few misfires. It was hard not be won over by Charnock’s natural wit and playful vulgarity, and he raised quite a few laughs, especially on his several trips out into the audience, at one point climbing some ladders at the back of the room and banging on the sound booth.

In the second half Simcock was joined by his regular trio partners Yuri Goloubev on double bass and James Maddren on drums for some tracks from the ‘Blues Vignette’ record. Maddren is just getting better and better, managing to combine a very fluid underlying pulse with an understated busyness that matches Simcock’s harmonic density deftly. Goloubev seemed a bit bemused, having missed the rehearsal due to flight delays, and wasn’t at his most fiery, but still did the job. He seemed a little wary when Charnock reappeared to join the trio for a few tracks, but stoically got on with it.

This evening was a fun proposition and came off well as a one-off, but I did find the movement distracted much attention from the music, ultimately the music being a poor loser. Also, much of the success of the event came from Charnock’s witty asides. In some ways we were won as much by the comedy as the movement, which did get repetitive, Charnock appearing to struggle for ideas from about half way through. A good time was had by many nonetheless.

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