Curios are a phenomenon. A piano trio who perform as a trio; it can sometimes sound as if they are playing completely independently if you concentrate on one or the other of them, but if you listen to the whole thing it makes total sense. There’s an instinctive understanding, even when improvising at full tilt, such that they never get in the way of each other. The sum is greater than the parts. This is true of all great trios (or bands) in my humble opinion. Curios demonstrated it again this afternoon. Today, they were playing either at a whisper or like thunder and not much in between. The whispers were equisite, delicately crafted melodies often very classically flavoured to my jazzy ears. The thunder was blazing workouts, crashing chords with everyone at full throttle and they sometimes switched between the two at the blink of any eye. The piano earnt its keep, but not as much as for Nick Bartsch. This was my first taste of Ronin ( am I betraying my lack of adventure in listening here… everyone else seemed to know about them), so expectations were stoked. The programme notes definitely told us which bag to look in (minimalist again) but it was very funky groovy. It was like watching someone play with a loop machine, adding layers to the repeating loops, except the band members were individually adding the extra bits. I rather enjoyed the sound it built up to, 45 minutes was enough though. My classically (piano) trained companion was visibly distressed at the treatment the steinway was getting from Nick Bartsch however. He’d clearly taken Cecil Taylors injuction to regards the piano as 88 tuned drums a litle too literally and was beating the dis-assembled, prepared piano with all manner of objects.
Bath Festival: Curios & Nick Bartsch Ronin, Komedia, Sunday 24th May