Gwilym Simcock’s 2011 Mercury Prize nomination for his solo piano album Good Days At Schloss Elmau gave mainstream acknowledgement to his fusing of jazz and classical traditions.
He’s far more in the latter camp, in which he was a prodigy, using jazz’s rhythmic and improvisatory strengths to breathe playing freedom into otherwise rigorously composed music.
Tonight Simcock is leading a quintet through "Simple Tales", a suite from his April-released album Instrumation.
The brilliant Russian bassist Yuri Goloubev takes the lead on a piece of bowed, plucked melancholy, while drummer Martin France twirls his brushes like a pistolero.
Floppy-haired violinist Thomas Gould then takes the most pleasure in letting his classical training rip through the windows of liberty Simcock provides, sawing like a rock guitarist as he’s tempted towards "Mr. Bricolage"'s pit of relative chaos, wide-eyed cellist Gabriella Swallow straining to keep up, and Simcock rising from his seat in excitement.
It’s all hugely accomplished. But the encores are more satisfying. Simcock’s solo exploration of Cole Porter’s "Every Time We Say Goodbye" becomes a mid-paced, remorseless blues, sinking movingly to a stop. For this man who can do so dauntingly much, less is more.