Was that a deliberate typo on the booking page of Jazz Steps Nottingham’s website that turned this trio into Green – Grass and Rain (ey)? There was no sabotaging the quality of the music however. If you’re going to hook up with a kick ass New York rhythm section then you may as well go for the top drawer and Barry Green did just that when he recorded his just released Almost There trio album in New York with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey. Now there’s a short tour and my own roamings meant I was crossing their path in Nottingham.
The material expresses different sides of Green’s personality. From muted, glowing renditions of pop ballads and hymns, through tumbling free improv, a sprinkling of originals that are jagged polished little jewels of rhythmic jigsaws and fragmentary melody, some viscerally driving swing and bursts of rhapsodic lyricism. In Gress and Rainey he has perfect foils who anticipate, play off each other and shadow every move.
In the first set Paul Simon’s A train in the distance sucked the air out the room, as the piano chimed the affecting melody, floating on a pulsing, insistent sizzle from Rainey’s drums. Then they launched into Green’s own My Spy a jagged left hand riff doubled with Gress’s bass and stabbing chords and glittering fragments of melody from the right hand. If little clusters of notes and angular turns in the piano solo hinted at Monk, it was overt as they ripped into a tumbling, free-wheeling take on the master’s Work. This is a tour on the back of the album release, but they were stretching beyond that material. More Green originals, another clattering tumultuous deconstruction this time of McCartney’s Her Majesty and a burst of sunshine and joy with a lilting calypso like piece, Pim, that drew a fluid, singing solo from Gress on the bass. Rainey was a revelation throughout. Sometimes adding colour, at others rhythm and clatter that tugged the band in new directions, at others sitting on the simplest of driving pulses. The choice of materials may have been Barry Green’s, but this was a group conversation and performance. A delight.
And another delight for me was to visit the Bonington for the first time and dip into Jazz Steps’ programme. They are another bit of the live music and jazz network on which we depend and run of course by volunteers. Loud cheers.