25 February 2012

Doing service

Paul dal Broi led a trio the other night at Hippo. I seldom get to Hippo these days because I usually don’t know who’s playing, but I had a free night. It was lucky I did because it was a great night. Paul is a favourite pianist of mine. I enjoy the way he takes popular tunes and turns them into authentic jazz vehicles: he does good service to a tune. I admire his respect for the composition in the way he expresses the head: it’s often embellished with parallel lines and substitutions but it retains authenticity. I enjoy his readiness to bend and distort it any which way, changing harmony or melody or time or density or whatever, but always with the tune obvious or at least implied somewhere below. I hear Bad Plus and Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner but I’m sure there’s more. Take this for a set: James Taylor’s Fire and rain with heavy rhythmic left hand diss-chords, then Tuneup as medium up, Walking on the Moon as uber-cool groove, Raindrops keep falling on my head with an interlude of Monk’s Well you needn’t. And Coldplay and a few originals and some lesser-known standards. This was a varied, personal repertoire with rhythmically aware arrangements and broad-ranging creatively and informed interpretation. The trio was shining too. I hadn’t caught James Luke on double bass for some time. Bass is never the harmonic changeling that piano can be, but this was energetic and tuneful and impressively capable and James played with a few substitutions of his own. I particularly enjoyed Mark Sutton’s drums on the night, too. This was Mark at his best: fluid with cymbals and kick, sharp with snare and dynamic with mutating grooves, and solos that were all the above and conversational. This is piano trio music that would stand anywhere. For the music and the venue size, this could be our own Smalls; for the cocktail-bar clinks and the gloomy lighting, it’s all our own. Paul dal Broi (piano) led a trio with James Luke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Hippo. Hippo Bar has the best local jazz every Wednesday night from 9-11pm; free entry.

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