REVIEW: Dave Drake Trio at The Verdict, Brighton (2017 South Coast Jazz Festival)

 "Positive, upbeat." Dave Drake. Photo credit: Lisa Wormsley
Dave Drake Trio
(The Verdict, Brighton 16th January 2017. Opening night of the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival. Review by Charlie Anderson)

Pianist Dave Drake, currently studying at the New School of Music in New York, recently returned to his home town of Brighton to record his debut album and to perform on the opening night of the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival with one half of Empirical: bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes.

Cafe owner John Easterby and Verdict proprietor Andy Lavender were early supporters of Dave Drake when he was a teenager so The Verdict in Brighton was the perfect venue to open the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival.

The opening tune, Ocean Song, was the first of many original compositions of the evening. A beautiful melodic waltz highlighting the intense interplay and sensitive playing of the trio, it was swiftly followed by Devotion, a beguine-inspired march, dedicated to his mum, who was in the audience.

Monk’s Mood began with a solo piano introduction that was true to the unique genius of Thelonious Monk and illustrated a thorough understanding of Monk’s melodic and harmonic complexities. whilst bassist Tom Farmer, a sensitive accompanist, also displayed his abilities as a fluent and intelligent soloist.

The bright and quirky Daisaku was a suitable vehicle for Drake’s positive, upbeat personality and piano style, and was followed by a unique solo piano introduction to an uptempo version of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low, highlighting the advanced comping skills of Farmer and Forbes.

Many of Drake’s original compositions highlight an advanced understanding of melody and harmony, and this was particularly true of The Shining Rose, whilst the piece The Bond offered up a repeated ostinato pattern on the piano which gave drummer Shaney Forbes the chance to solo over the top of it.

After the interval, Drake began with another original, dedicated to the city of Bucharest followed by The Will That Says Hold On which was inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem If. After a spirited reading of the poem, it began with another beautiful solo piano introduction, followed by a clear and distinct left-hand bass cleverly combined with chords and melody to take the listener on a rollercoaster ride of contrasting textures and dynamics.

The Garden of Eden illustrated Dave Drake’s deep appreciation of the history of jazz piano, which will surely increase further during his studies in New York, combined with his love of ragtime and early jazz piano. The same can also be said of his interest in world music, shown in his piece Eagle Eyes, dedicated to Senegalese master drummer Doudou N’diaye Rose.

Dedicating the penultimate number of the evening to the Black Lives Matter movement, the tune Guns In The Hands of Men featured an intro inspired by the 1963 Coltrane composition Alabama and continued in a similar vein with lyrical beauty and emotional intensity.

The final tune, Hold Your Heart, revealed flashes of Oscar Petersonesque brilliance and was a perfect finale to an evening filled with energy, enthusiasm and interplay.


Charlie Anderson is the editor of Sussex Jazz Magazine / Lisa Wormsley is currently exhibiting a selection of photos at The Verdict cafe as part of the South Coast Jazz Festival.

The 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival continues until Sunday 29th January.

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