REVIEW Kenny Barron and Dave Holland Duo at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2014 EFG LJF)

Kenny Barron, Dave Holland, QEH, Nov 2014. Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Kenny Barron and Dave Holland Duo
(QEH, 21st November 2014. EFG LJF. Review by Peter Vacher)

Pianist Kenny Barron and former home-town bassist Dave Holland were playing the final concert in a long series of European appearances in support of their album The Art of Conversation. They had spoken in a pre-performance interview of the need to listen and to respond intuitively in a duo situation, to go where the music takes you. And so it did. While clearly respectful of each other, it was heartening to see the way each would throw cues and elicit responses in each of the pieces they played, sometimes trading an idea back and forth, in eights and fours. Theirs was a proper partnership, a true meeting of equals.

Barron is above all a literate player, calm at the keyboard with no need for bombast or grandstanding, a master of jazz procedure, never seemingly short of an idea or an elegantly shaped response. Quick-fingered and relaxed, his is classic modern jazz piano, with momentary hints of the past, a sense of the whole history of the music in the approach while Holland is an almost mesmeric performer, his touch and command allowing him to set and meet challenges that one fears might break a lesser musician. While his solos were undeniably complex and his virtuosity never in doubt, their shape and direction was always clear to see.

Their programme combined originals by both men, two by Holland conceived as tributes respectively to Kenny Wheeler - ‘A Waltz for Wheeler’ - and the jaunty Pass It On for New Orleans drummer Ed Blackwell, these interspersed with compositions by Charlie Parker and a storming reading of Thelonious Monk ‘s In Walked Bud’. All had their rewards none more so than Barron’s ‘Calypso, a remembrance of his early days in Brooklyn playing with West Indian bands, its very perky theme calling for some startlingly adroit work from both men, before it turned into a danceable Barron romp. Both men spoke eloquently about their choices; more to the point the music they created had that wonderful in-the-moment creativity that distinguishes the best in jazz.

Earlier, ‘Singapore’s King of Swing’, pianist Jeremy Monteiro, an EFG-supported artist, had played an invigorating set with Calum Gourlay on bass and the very sensitive yet resourceful Thai drummer Hong [Chanutr Techetana-nan]. Mr Monteiro occupies that jazz interesting hinterland also populated by pianists like Jacques Diéval and the late Dudley Moore, each rendition like an entity in itself, largely pre-structured but always swinging and invariably engaging. The unbilled appearance by singer Melissa Chan, an elegant young woman who is a Monteiro protégé, proved to be as pleasurable as it was unexpected.

Hats off to Serious for this one, arguably the perfect jazz concert. Two consummate musicians at the height of their game, a newcomer determined to make a mark, a surprise addition and a pre-concert talk that was both illuminating and entertaining. No wonder the packed crowd erupted into a cacophony of whoops and calls for more at its end.

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