In a large chilly room in Bath there’s a 9ft Steinway. The chill is not because of approaching Autumn, but a carefully controlled atmosphere to ensure the preservation of the Gainsborough portraits staring down from every wall. The Steinway was used by Sergei Rachmaninoff in the 1930s for rehearsal and performance. The Holburne Museum was an exceptional setting for a jazz gig last week and three exceptional musicians were billed. John Law, Julian Arguelles and Yuri Goloubev are virtuosi on their respective instruments of piano, sax and bass, but what has always drawn me to their music, and to this slightly below the radar gig, is the tremendous emotional force of their playing. Julian Arguelles has a breathy warm, utterly distinctive tone on tenor. He combines this with phrasing that deploys by turns, long hanging notes and surging flurries of notes with the dynamics beautifully shaped often giving a haunting plaintive feel to his improvising; he can quickly switch to honking bluesy phrases by contrast. John Law’s playing has similar qualities; he makes full use of both hands but somehow, although he plays a lot of notes, it never feels cluttered. The anticipation of this gig was about what material they would play and the sparks the interaction might generate. This was trailed as jazz meets classical influence and was overt in much of the material. An arrangement of a Bizet duet for the trio; of Dido’s lament by Purcell; Mozart’s Requiem, Yuri Goloubev’s bass sounding for all the world like a violin used as an introduction to Don’t Explain; the chord sequence of Round Midnight given a sort of baroque treatment before the statement of the familiar theme. Many of the originals were given momentum by dense patterns of arpeggios and broken chords from the piano with slow moving melodies on the sax giving a feel not unlike the neo-romanticism of Michael Nyman. Without fail, the passionate lyrical soloing from Julian Arguelles inspired by these compositions was riveting as the accompaniment thinned out and left more space . Occasionally John Law turned the wick up a bit and the samba like Lift me Up had a typically exhilarating flowing solo from him. I think this may have been only the second outing for this trio playing carefully written and constructed music. Perhaps no surprise then that the written sections felt a little less natural and relaxed than the improvising, but these are world class musicians and this trio is one to watch if it pops up again.
Threeways Trio (Law, Arguelles, Goloubev), Holburne Museum, Bath, Thursday 6th September