This double bill started with my second solo piano set of the last 24 hours, this time from John Taylor playing without Kenny Wheeler who has injured his hand. For me this set was a joy: John Taylor, unwrapped, distilled, exposed without distractions. For an unashamed fan like me all that I love about his music was on display. From the first simple tracing of the melody of the Kenny Wheeler composition Consolation, supported by typically sonorous chords and subtle shifting of voicings (the pun/ irony of the title duly spelt out for us in the announcing!) to the fiercely two handed rhythmic interpretation of another Wheeler tune with which he closed (Everyone’s Song but my own), the full range of John Taylor’s sound and ideas were on display. I hear a quiet, joyful, exuberance in this music and it is distinctively his voice that is heard. Today there was a surpising amount of bluesey, gospel like phrases juxtaposed with his more familiar lush jazzy sound. I’m not sure he was even at the top of his game this afternoon, but the spirit was there and felt by most in the audience. Like most music, there is a taste or preference dimension – I’m reporting as a fan, I think some of my friends were less enthralled.
No such equivocation over Julian Lourau’s band though, I didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t saying “wow” afterwards. The tunes were all written either by leader and saxophonist Lourau or by the pianist Laurent Coq. Strong melodies more European than bop flavoured jazz, varied rythmic feels that switched several times within a single piece gave each compostions a slightly epic feeling. Fast intricate passages were doubled by the sax and piano really upping the excitement quotient and some dramatic soloing from Lourau and Coq in particular were all gripping. There was a bit of showmanship from Lourau on a piece inspired by haiti, as he turned the sax into a percussion instrument by resting the bell on the mic and generating a furious percussion storm on the keys. This was a bit of a live tour de force and had us all whooping for more. Well done Bath for reminding us of the richness of the European jazz scene. More to come tonight with a Dutch trio and another frenchman, Martial Solal.