Saturday of Rollins week and Liam Noble’s Trio were playing on the free stage at the Barbican giving their interpretations of Dave Brubeck tunes an outing. This was the opening weekend of the London Jazz Festival and its quite something if you can hear a band of this quality just by stumbling in out of the rain into the Barbican foyer. Liam is a phenomenal improviser and Dave’s Whitford and Wickens seemed to effortlessy follow every whimsical twist and turn. Several of the themes they played are incredibly well known (Take 5, Blue Rondo a la Turk, In your own Sweet way) but this treatment never seemed hackneyed. The band sidled up to themes after an extended group improvisation the melody gradually emerging, or stated them with the utmost simplicity on piano over a stripped down bass line. The piano improvisations were percussive and quirkily melodic by turns. Liam Noble seems led by melodic ideas and motives and the sense of him pursuing ideas and inspiration on the hoof is almost palpable. This is was exciting stuff. It was often dense, abstract music and not to everyone’s taste. For me, it couldn’t have sounded less like what was to come from Sonny Rollins later and couldn’t have been more in the spirit of committed, melodic and rhythmic improvisation that the great tenor player exemplifies. No surprise that the pianist seemed genuinely awed to be a kind of curtain raiser for him as well as citing him as a hero.
Rollins Week Part 2a: Liam Noble Trio, Barbican Free Stage, Saturday 13th November