Review: Gareth Williams and Dave Green at Cadogan Hall

Gareth Williams, Dave Green. Scarborough 2013.
Credit: Alan Ainsworth Photography. All Rights Reserved

Gareth Williams and Dave Green
(Cadogan Hall Out to Lunch Series, 29th August 2013. Review by Peter Vacher)

Oliver Weindling commended these free midday jazz concerts in his piece on this site last week. And rightly so. That they chime with a crying need in the capital was emphasised by the exceptional turn-out, standing room only, for the final performance in this year’s season given by the duo of pianist Gareth Williams and bassist Dave Green.

Their presentation, received with rapt attention and huge acclaim, was sub-titled ‘The Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro Songbook’, the two men at one in evoking the intensity and yes, the joy inherent in the music made by the intertwined past-masters. Williams was at pains to explain that their interpretations were in the spirit of these US stylists, so no note-for-note replications here, rather the active deployment of their harmonic concepts and modus operandi in the themes our UK equivalents chose to play. To bowdlerise Eric Morecambe’s immortal mantra, here was a case of ‘the same notes but not necessarily in the same order’.

Opening with a dulcet version of Autumn Leaves, Green’s singing tone appropriately LaFaro-esque, Williams moved this lovely tune through a series of harmonic reappraisals that felt Evans-like yet remained firmly in the moment. Tackling Waltz for Debbie next might have seemed like a hostage to fortune, but it materialised from something subtle into a firmly swinging treatment before My Foolish Heart was given a delicate, almost reverential reading ahead of Everything I Love with a Williams vocal, neatly done, as Green settled into a propulsive line and Williams splashed out . Leonard Bernstein's Lucky To Be Me finished a strong first half, Williams flexing his keyboard muscles to riveting effect and stomping in a most un-Evans like manner.

More good things followed as the pair resumed their clever interplay, Green soloing at length as required and Williams confirming what many of us already knew that his is a piano talent of protean proportions, each improvisation like a master class in harmonic adventure and creative zest. With their preference for standards, it was fun to hear the duo trip through Gloria’s Step, a perky LaFaro piece, toying engagingly with its structure as they zigzagged around the theme. Music of this quality is rare and to be savoured, a point well taken by this audience.

Williams/Green say they aim to record this repertoire. They should, and soon.

There's another review of the same gig over at Bebop Spoken Here

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