Review: Hans Koller Nonet with François Théberge at Jazz at the Salisbury

Hans Koller Nonet at Jazz at the Salisbury
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Hans Koller Nonet with François Théberge
(Jazz at the Salisbury, 27 January 2013: review and drawings by Geoff Winston)


It was real treat to be at ‘Jazz at the Salisbury’ for the very first outing by Hans Koller's nine-piece brass-based ensemble. This was test-bed performance to sound out Koller's arrangements ahead of his concert date at King's Place on 9 February, and the signs were really good. From a slightly nervous start in the first set, after a testing rehearsal earlier in the day, they got well in to their stride and were flying by the second set.

Koller led in the unfamiliar role of trombonist, rather than his more familiar position at the keyboard. The hugely talented brass section were kept on track by Jeff Williams's rolling percussion and Nick Jurd's confident bass. A seasonally-spiced Bach song, its soft formality perfectly carried by Jim Rattigan's mellow French horn, was a fitting prelude to demanding takes on Herbie Nichols' The Gig, which was given a bracing lift by Ryan Williams' chordally strong guitar work, and Jimmy Giuffre's Temporarily, both characterised by a structural sophistication which appeals to Koller's compositional instincts.


Mike Fletcher at Jazz at the Salisbury
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


The second set was devoted to Koller's new compositions based on the poems of Friedrich Hölderlin, the early 19th century German Romantic poet. The pieces were played minus the vocal part which will be performed by Christine Tobin at the official premiere on February 9th. A combination of expressive, punchy brass and gentler, intricate ensemble work sealed the flavour of this set which saw the group moving into strong, tense section work. This formed a platform for notable solos by Mike Fletcher on flowing, focused tenor, Robbie Robson's piercing trumpet and in the final number, inspired abstract excursions by Percy Pursglove, his trumpet balanced against the deliberately restrained tones of the rest of the band and François Théberge, whose vibrant, fluency on tenor was matched by Jeff Williams' subtle, trickling beat.

Which makes the King's Place concert a very exciting prospect!

Robbie Robson, Percy Pursglove: trumpets
Mike Fletcher, François Théberge: tenor saxes
Jim Rattigan: French horn
Hans Koller: valve trombone
Ryan Williams: guitar
Nick Jurd: bass
Jeff Williams: drums

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