Gabrial Latchin, I’ll be home for Christmas CD and launch gig, Chapel Arts, Bath Friday 11th December

There was a fair bit of engaging, discursive chat between tunes on Friday at Chapel Arts in Bath. It was the first proper gig for for Gabrial Latchin‘s trio since ‘the great before’ as he put it, so we were all up for a bit of reflective chat as well as reveling in the music. It was the launch of an album of Christmas tunes. Latchin has lovingly curated a set of mainly classic American Songbook style tunes a couple of carols and an original. He’s refreshed them with an artful twist here, angular take there, all through the lens of impeccable straight ahead jazz imagining as he says, how a few of the greats, his heroes, might have done it.

The CD is a thoroughly engaging listen. The potential for cloying or sentimental takes is high (Rudolph, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland) or even perversely weird re-workings. Latchin avoids all that. His is a really good piano trio and they swing, groove, samba their way through a set peppered with just – so changes of pace, catchy riffs, suspenseful pedals and glittering, fluid improvising. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town provides an almost stomach lurching, disorientating moment as the open phrases of Blue Monk are some how resolved by the familiar Santa Claus melody. Rudolph is taken for gallop with a stylistic nod at Ahmad Jamal, it positively fizzes. Silent Night gets a bluesy lilt, the Christmas Song bustles along over a samba groove. God Rest Ye Gentleman with a darker tinge to the chords and driving pulse edges into post bop territory. It all feels just right, Latchin’s feel and turn of phrase locked with a first class rhythm section keep the energy high and draw the ear. Dario Di Lecce‘s playing is a key stone, elegant lines buoying melody and propelling the solos on.

If there’s a centre of gravity or reference point, it has to be Bill Evans. At Chapel Arts time stood still for a moment as Di Lecce and Matt Holmes on drums (depping for Josh Morrison who’s on the CD) came in underneath the piano on I’ll Be Home For Christmas and again on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas the cadences hanging in the air. It’s a class act when the trio seem to breath, sigh as one, a little decoration from the piano’s upper register flutters and settles over another rich, moving fragment of harmony allowing us to breathe out. The CD comes highly recommended, it’ll be on in our kitchen speakers, and catch the trio if you’re nearby and can get out, details here

A word for Chapel Arts as well. In normal times there’s an eclectic programme there with a sprinkling of jazz gigs. The team there have got old chapel space’s acoustic tamed and there’s a lovely warm, balanced sound and ambience, so a heartfelt ‘shout-out’ from this punter for the care with which this event was staged. They seem to fly a bit below the radar at times and this gig wasn’t sold out, perhaps a reflection of the difficult times, but another they are another gem we wouldn’t want to lose.

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