Review: Jonathan Gee New York Trio at the Hen & Chicken, Bristol, by Tony Benjamin - 6/10
OK, so it wasn't the actual Jonathan Gee New York Trio, since drummer Nasheet Waits hadn't made the journey, but since the redoubtable Gene Calderazzo emanated from the Big Apple and is a regular sidesman for Gee it seemed a legitimate billing, nonetheless.
Bass player Joseph Lepore had certainly made the trip and his presence was well felt on the opening number, Thelonious Monk's We See. It began, in Gee's trademark style, with a discordant and hesitant solo piano rendition of the tune that soon motored into life, strong walking bass and assertive drumming establishing a definite Stateside swagger and payed out with Calderazzo working an intense evolutionary rhythm on hi-hat cymbal alone. All this while Lepore's fingers flew up and down the neck of his instrument leaving a trail of neo-classical precision in his wake.
Things got a bit shakier on Gee's own compositions, with rhythmically fractured and complex tunes like Beyond and Starfish posing a particular challenge to the bass player who needed to straddle between Gee's ceaseless harmonic digressions and Calderazzo's seismic undercurrents.
With eyes fixed to the sheet music his playing stuck carefully to the chord charts with only the occasional flurry of elaboration. He was much better served by the more ballad-like Wakefield Dawn where Gee made harp-like sweeps over the chord changes and Calderazzo fell into what was nearly a groove on drums, allowing Lepore's solo to evolve with an almost Nordic clarity of restraint and spaciousness. The second set began well with the near-swing chirpiness of Cicada and the Ron Carter tune To R.J., a more conventional cool school groove but went awry on 'From Tom to Tom', a Latin number that slowly fell apart. Gee followed that with a couple of solo songs, and though his easy vocals carried The Very Thought of You and I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart it felt like they belonged in a different show. Happily things came solidly back together for a Latin encore that let all three players show their paces and finish with wit and style. It was clear what the potential of this threesome could be but perhaps a bit more rehearsal time would have done more justice to them and the ambitious music on offer.
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