REVIEW: Ron Carter's Stryker Trio at the Rah Rah Room in Piccadilly

L-R: Donald Vega, Ron Carter, Russell Malone
Photo credit: Paul Wood

Ron Carter's Stryker Trio
(The Rah Rah Room. 31st October 2016. Review by Frank Griffith)

The pre-eminent American bassist, Ron Carter, and his Stryker Trio held forth at the newly-opened Rah Rah Room in Piccadilly on Halloween night. A rapt audience witnessed a one-hour set of stunning chamber jazz. Nicaraguan-born  pianist, Donald Vega, and guitarist, Russell Malone (longtime associate of Diana Krall) rose to the occasion admirably with their balanced artistry as soloists and “ensemblists” alike, negotiating through the leader’s refreshing arrangements of jazz and Broadway standards with faultless aplomb.

The nicely appointed venue was full, replete with a large bar and standing area in the back as well as having an upstairs balcony section where reviewers, photographers and staff abounded above the glorious musical going ons below. Interestingly, the audience, while clearly digging the sounds was not what appeared to be a typical London jazz crowd like that of Ronnie Scotts or Pizza Express. I believe though, that this a good thing in most ways as it presumably attracts a new and receptive audience, to discover and experience this world-class jazz.

The set got off to a somewhat late (45 minute) start due to some equipment and sound check wrinkles that were eventually sorted out and they were off and running. It would have been useful for a staff member of the venue to have made an announcement to the keen audience assuring them that all would be in order before long, rather than leaving us in uncertainty.....

The well-knit Stryker Trio demonstrated a completely egalitarian approach to sharing the workload with not a sniff of a leading figure or dominating force amongst them. Each of the six pieces performed highlighted one of the members playing the melody and soloing although they were not limited to just one soloist.

The absence of a drummer or percussionist might concern some die hard jazz fans perhaps, but this can shift one’s attention to the percussive potential of the three stringed instruments. A good example of this being in Malone’s relentless rhythmic striding, a la Freddie Green, over medium and up swing numbers that can be just as convincing and powerful as what any drummer can provide.

Particular highlights included a Carter original, Candlelight (dedicated to the late Jim Hall, a frequent duo partner of the bassist for many years) that allowed Malone to share his Hall-like lyricism coupled with a Wes (Montgomery) and (George) Bensonian rich-toned blues sensibility.

The set’s closer, Soft Winds, a Goodman/Royal 1940s blues number often associated with the Oscar Peterson Trio was a complete tour de force. The riff-like melody was eloquently stated in unison by the trio and then led to a nifty repeating two chord “intervamp” (a combination of interlude and vamp) allowing each soloist to work up a head of steam before launching into several blues choruses. So swinging that, as Dizzy used to say, “ it would knock your back outta whack”. A varied, unsparing and climactic closer to be sure.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd demanded more and Carter wisely calmed them down with a relaxed take on There Will Never Be Another You featuring four bar exchanges between guitar and piano followed by a sixteen bar bass solo before a quiet close. This allowed the audience to attain full closure, enabling them to file out into that gentle night to reflect on what would be for a most memorable way to celebrate All Hallows Eve.

Treats, not tricks, were the order here and all things being well the Rah Rah Room is off to a fine start as a jazz venue in the capital


Ron Carter. Photo Credit Paul Wood


LINKS: CD Review  Ron Carter My Personal Songbook 
Review: Ron Carter Trio at Ronnie Scott's in 2013
Review: Russell Malone Quartet at Upstairs in Montreal

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