21 June 2007

Ben's boys back

Ben Winkelman returned to Hippo last night with new sidemen, a new CD and new tunes, many with a new Spanish twist. The energetic piano trio style was still there. So were some devilishly difficult rhythms. I compared notes with someone from the jazz school in the break. We were trying to count the time signature and identify the bar breaks, but he was having as much difficulty as me. The counts were unusual, continually changing, and there were unexpected hits by various band members at odd times. The range of styles was also there, with stride and marches and tangos and Euro film music and swing and more merging throughout the night. I wasn’t surprised to hear Michel Camilo, Chick Corea, even Jelly Roll Morton in the music, but I was taken aback by Arthur Lyman and Tchaikovsky. The soloing variously matched the tune, or provided modern rewrites for the mainstream or traditional styles. There was a restrained explosiveness at times, and solos which held, searchingly, behind the beat. There was a new Spanish element – not a surprise given the new CD is called Spanish tinge. So it was Corea I was hearing in there, but a more dissonant version and not so exorbitantly fluent. That’s not to say this wasn’t fluent - it sure was! Ben seems to drop into styles at a whim. Big chordal solos, playing out, trad arpeggios, orchestral complexity, warped timing, it was all there. Given that I also heard that Tchaikovsky at the end of one tune, I assume there’s classical training in there too.

But this was a team, and the rhythm players also excelled. They shared solos on pretty much every tune, held challenging rhythms and often enough departed hugely from the rhythm yet it all held together. Sam held these complex rhythms with continual improvisation, played some very interesting contrasting melodic work (these were interesting compositions) and soloed with panache and lots of high register thumb positions. Andrew was blissful with a constantly rich interplay over the tunes, and blaringly intense soloing despite a deceptive lightness of touch.

I was interested but not surprised by the popularity of these diverse styles. There was a constant hubbub at Hippo’s, not just hardcore listeners. But I noticed when two chatting women in front of me suddenly started gyrating when Ben started up in a Jelly Roll style. And as any entertainer knows, once they start moving, you’re on a winner, so Michel Camilo and even that Arthur Lyman with class went down a treat. So it was a wonderfully intelligent and interesting night.

Ben Winkelman Trio were Ben Winkelman (piano), Sam Anning (bass) and Andrew Gander (drums).
  • Ben Winkelman's website
  • No comments: