REVIEW: John Colianni at Boisdale of Belgravia

John Colianni. Photo credit: Dystofit/ Creative Commons


John Colianni
(Solo and trio. Boisdale of Belgravia, 25th August 2016. Review by Peter Vacher)




Five minutes from Victoria but far from Soho’s jazz enclave, Boisdale of Belgravia is a chic Scottish restaurant with a fine dining reputation and a six-nights a week commitment to jazz. The room is long with a bar to one side and a fenced-in bandstand near to the entrance. It can accommodate a trio easily, a quintet with difficulty, and works well for soloists with attitude. The food is exceptional, the chef’s a star and the general ambiance is one of cultivated mayhem.

The current bandstand incumbent is the New York pianist John Colianni, now nearing the end of his fifth annual residency at Boisdale. Once a regular tourist here, and a one-time sideman with Lionel Hampton and former accompanist to singer Mel Tormé, Colianni has always opted to plunge into the deep end pianistically, and often comes up with improvisations that can both startle and delight. All keyboard life is there, you could say, his harmonic nous allied to exceptional facility making his solo playing a pleasure to behold.

And that was the form at Boisdale, with solo Colianni for the first set, something like Fascinating Rhythm shaken to bits and knowingly re-vamped. Later, there was the immeasurable bonus of sitter-in Dave Swift, a bassist best known for his work with Jools Holland, and here demonstrating the kind of rhythmic momentum that prompted Colianni to pull yet more creative tools out of the bag. With the addition of Richard Pite, Boisdale’s musical director, playing the kind of tasty drums that builds swing, the trio thus assembled simply soared, giving A Train a complex run-down before Jumping at the Woodside did just that, our American visitor fairly romping and finding a boogie undertow. Terrific.

As if overcome, Swift retired from the fray; actually it was just that he wanted to eat, this as regular bassist Dave Chamberlain came in and added his own classy touches to Lady Sings the Blues, taken slower, of course, before Sunny Side picked up and the wonderful Robbin’s Nest closed out the set. Colianni is a titan of the 88 – make sure you catch him next time he’s in Belgravia. Meanwhile, he’ll be back in NY and running his new big band. Probably worth a trip, I’d say.

LINK: John Colianni's website

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