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Storms/Nocturnes, Colston Hall, April 10

April 12, 2011

You could call this a power trio, not in the crunchy guitar chords and pulsing drums sense, but for sheer musical power, expressed through virtuosity on piano, vibes and reeds. The three players – Geoff KeezerJoe Locke and Tim Garland – are all leading world exponents of their instruments, and considerable composers. A mini UK tour to mark release of their spellbinding new CD, Via, was winding down this evening in Colston’s Hall 2, laid out for the occasion with jazz club style tables and, er, a sea of empty seats in the back.

A shame, as the evening produced some wonderful, joyful music. And hard to account for  the lean attendance. The band’s name probably doesn’t help. An unseasonally sunny Sunday doesn’t either. Nor does running the same day as another classy ensemble down at Future Inns – though word is Geoff Eales’ trio with Ben Waghorn was also sparsely supported. Perhaps Bristol is getting a bit spoilt for good music. There must be a limit to how many gigs a city this size can support. And it would have been possible to coast a while longer on the glories of Joe Lovano the week before, though this was pretty nearly as good as Lovano’s masterclass in high-level music-making. But I also wonder whether jazz is such a rarity at Colston that they don’t really have the audience, or know how to reach them. Can’t help thinking this would have got a better crowd at St George’s.

Still, for those of us who made it, no effort was spared – needless to say. These guys enjoy each other’s playing so much they hardly need any audience. And you could hear why. It was a privilege to see them at work up close for two sets. They have a superb collection of pieces, mostly from the new album whose theme is places. The stories behind each inspirational location were, for once, worth hearing, as they took turns to introduce. Locke and Keezer, who we hadn’t heard live before, were both richly inventive, and managed not to get in each other’s way in spite of the similar sound territory they occupied. There were dozens of standout moments, but two of the best were a fiercely free soprano sax and piano duet – on the piece called Daley Avenue, I think it was – and the limpid beauty of Locke’s vibes on his tribute to vocalist Jimmy Scott, Sword of Whispers. That one isn’t on the CD, but sounds like this 

Good eh? This is where Locke meets Gary Burton, I guess, though he has touches of Hutcherson’s soulfulness as well. There are so few notable vibes players that they all tend to remind you of all the others at times, but Locke is mainly a straight ahead player, sometimes straight ahead at the blinding speed which makes the instrument give a bit of an impression of an unusually  sweet-sounding sewing machine if you are not concentrating hard. But such moments were few, and only the product of exuberance. It was, all in all, a deeply satisfying evening. They may not return after this turnout, but if they do I’ll be recommending the date to one and all. Music so good you want to dash out onto the street to tell people what they are missing…


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