Barry Green / Chris Cheek / Gerald Cleaver
Vortex, 24th September 2015, first night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Pianist Barry Green is a highly adaptable pianist, who can be heard frequently - because he is a quality player and therefore in demand - in any number of contexts around London. One might conclude that, because he is such a fixture on the scene, he has to be a known quantity. Think again.
Last Thursday night, in the company of the incredibly resourceful. persuasive and melodic saxophonist Chris Cheek, and that drummer with an exquisite sense of both shape and drama Gerald Cleaver, the focus turned to Green's strengths and individual style and character as a composer. My main response last night was the wish to hear some of those compositions - like Great News and Probably Not again, to get a better idea of their shapes an contours, to understand how Green combines a clear delight in bringing unexpected asymmetries into song forms,
There was also contrasts in the tunes by others they selected: one sequence started in the sweet candied atmosphere of Cheer up Charlie by Leslie Bricusse, and ended up in the in-your face anarchy of Ornette Coleman's Happy House. On Chris Cheek's tune Vine, the sharing of melody between Green and Cheek also led to particularly felicitous results.
There was also a solo moment to treasure from Barry Green, when he played John Taylor's joyous and intricate Clapperclowe as a homage to the late great pianist for whom the grieving, the remembering still have further to go.
If the very best test of hearing music for the first time is whether one wants to hear it again straight away, then most of last night's gig - and in particular those constantly intriguing compositions of Barry Green's - succeeded.