REVIEW: Andrew McCormack - First Light Album Launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Andrew McCormack. Photo Credit: Richard Kaby

Andrew McCormack - First Light Album Launch 
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 11th July 2014. Review by Nicky Schrire)

Pianist Andrew McCormack returned from New York, where he now lives, to London's Pizza Express Jazz Club to mark the release of his new album First Light (Edition). This concert was something of a homecoming, and an enthusiastic full house was there to welcome him back.

From the outset, it was apparent how McCormack’s new home has informed his writing. The enjoyable and poignant Prospect Park (the title refers to the area surrounding his new Brooklyn home) incorporated sounds of Americana paired with Aaron Copland-ish parallel resolutions.

With drummer Colin Stranahan and bassist Sam Lasserson, McCormack gave a masterclass in the many merits of superb melodic composition.The melodically baroque Gotham Soul allowed him a more dramatic, legato approach and showcased Lasserson’s sensitive, warm bass sound, both in his solo and execution of the melody, which was played in unison with the piano a la bassist Avishai Cohen’s favoured and effective trait.

Whether jaunty and fast-paced Reluctant Gift or in traditional ballad mode - First Light - the melodic content was consistently well-constructed. McCormack’s Vista, a song reminiscent of Terence Blanchard’s Miracle at St. Anna theme, was the strongest example of this. When so many instrumentalists seem to forget about the importance of melody and memorability in songwriting, it is something of a rarity to experience original compositions that showcase melody. The emphasis is so often on complexity in grooves, time signatures or harmonic content, that the notion of a well-crafted melody risks being forgotten or simply ignored.

McCormack’s playing and touch were consistently clear, with well-weighted placement and measured intention. Stranahan’s signature percussive approach to drumming lent variety and surprise to traditional song forms and his fiery solo on Reluctant Gift was thrilling, using cross- rhythms and opposing triplet patterns to exciting effect.

The evening was a celebration of McCormack’s new album, and of the positive influence New York has had on his creative output, but it was also about three musicians whose sophistication, intelligence and truly collaborative spirit celebrated the beauty and purity of the piano trio format.

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