REVIEW: Dave Stapleton & Neil Yates/Ivo Neame St George's, Bristol 9/10
SOLO jazz piano is a real confidence trick – the player needs the confidence and the audience has to believe in them? If Ivo Neame had any self-doubt it certainly wasn't in evidence as, sleeves rolled up, he put St George's mighty Steinway through a set of mainly self-composed music that made few concessions to orthodoxy.
Each number's unfolding narrative was like the score to an eventful film, with the fractured rhythmic jumps of Bird Brain offering a Keystone Kops chase unsettled with the unexpected while Moon Baby summonsed Gershwin's lush Broadway with jazz-inflected schmaltz. And if it was the more orthodox structure of Jerome Kern's Nobody Else But Me that revealed Neame's particular gift for dense harmonic exploration it was his original music that remained in the mind. After the break there was an echo of Dave Stapleton's last St George's appearance in his opening number. He'd previously played the magisterial Henryk with a full string quartet and jazz trio but tonight the tune's anthemic strains asserted themselves from a solo piano arrangement before the strangled notes of Neil Yates' trumpet cut across like a lost seagull from his concealment on the balcony. As the trumpeter descended to the stage he whirled and hid, adding a spatial dimension to the music and emphasising a separateness that was largely lost on the platform. Once settled there he mostly echoed the melodic phrases that Stapleton himself had already passed from right to left hand, creating a loose cannon effect that kept the pianist's evocative and lyrical melodies hovering through Nymanesque modal chord changes. At times the densely structured music had an early classical feel, especially played acoustically in this hall. The results were spellbinding, moments of deep beauty where febrile trumpet spoke of magnificent Beckett-like degradation while a triumphal piano coda asserted the opposite. It was a great pairing of musical minds and yet further proof that Dave Stapleton is a composer of exceptional contemporary jazz.