21 November 2012


The Loft was in piano trio mode: Clare Dawson playing Herbie Hancock and Tate Sheridan playing his own music. Tate went second, but I’ll talk of him first. Enough said that I left in awe. I wasn’t the only one who had little to say after a stunningly mature student concert. Mature in concept, in composition, in improvisation. Tate is quiet on stage, respectful and deep in thought and interests, and these are expressed in his compositions as well as his respectful presence. Poetry, history and spirit all made an appearance, as well as influences and styles of some key pianists of influence.
I noted early his powered, adventurous, virtuosic playing. Classical in approach, chordal and full handed but with melody appearing in left or right hand, modal and symmetrical in improvisation, dynamic at both structural and improvisatory levels, expansive in use of the whole range of the keyboard and free with time as solo lines based on triplets or sixteenth or eighth notes rippled over extended phrases and plays with anticipations and delays. His Run don’t walk was influenced by Keith Jarrett’s ‘70s Cuban playing. His Onward onward was a ballad inspired by a poem from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of grass accompanying a recorded reading of the poem in Jason Moran style. His Please no questions was written to explore melody in two hands after hearing Brad Mehldau, with right and left hands playing a parallel melody an octave apart, then dropping into a heavily swung, straight ahead blues for solos, then ending with half time staccato unison passage and a return to the full time melody. Final hour, capturing the Mad Trapper recounts the longest chase on record, a chase of 250 miles after the bushranger, the Mad Trapper. This was a repeating 6x4 eighth-note passage sounding like steady pacing, with interspersed smashes and chords and accelerandos and rests and staccatos and a final, sudden stop as he’s presumably caught. Grace was slow: not religious but seeking and mellow and questioning. Speed dating was a head in three parts: sparing staccato right and left hand unaccompanied piano, then heavy, bluesy, syncopated groove, then swing, leading to solos and an end with the piano dissolving then returning to the head. An intriguing structure, even with swing solos. This was Tate’s night but his trio members deserve a mention. Max was playing a newly purchased, old German bass. Despite unknown strings but with strong hands, it sounded great. He is playing maturely these days, solid and reliable in accompaniment and expansive, full ranged, sometime playful in improv. James was obviously observant, watching Tate and exchanging glances with Max and well integrated with the tunes and with an idiomatic boomy kick drum. Suffice to say, this was a stunning outing and I was not the only one to leave the night with unusual quiet and respect.

Clare Dawson introduced the evening with a set of Herbie Hancock tunes. It means nothing to say these were interesting compositions. Jessica, a ballad with harmonically-enriched cycles. Some heavy loping swing in And what if I don’t. The melodically infectious Toys from Speak like a child. A grooving, smooth Calypso. The modal Eye of a hurricane from Maiden voyage. There was lots of ground covered here. I enjoyed Clare’s firm, even hard, touch, her use of repetition, her solid swing and bluesy hard bop chords and rolling arpeggios, her melodic sense. Max was again grooving in walks and sweet and expressive in solos and Luke was tempered and respectful in accompaniment.

The piano trio is a key format for modern jazz but it’s diverse in its character. I’ve seen three over recent days and enjoyed them all. Raf’s updated traditionalism; Clare’s respectful modernism; Tate’s stunning contemporary originality. All great pleasure and inspiration. Tate Sheridan (piano) led his trio with Max Alduca (bass) and James O’Donnell (drums) at the Loft. Clare Dawson (piano) introduced the night with her trio comprising Max Alduca (bass) and Luke Keanan-Brown (drums).

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