Jim Blomfield Trio at The Bell, Bath
Posted on 1st March 2017
Jim Blomfield Trio
The Bell, Bath
Monday February 27, 2017
It can easily be said that Jim Blomfield is the preeminent jazz pianist in Bristol; he is most jazz musicians’ first choice as a sideman and, though he has had extended forays into Latin music and has dabbled in synths, he is resolutely a jazz piano player.
He is also a composer with quite an extensive catalog for large groups and small. On this night, the writing fell very much in the mainstream of the jazz tradition, less Mingus and Ellington than Horace Silver and Wayne Shorter, with a bit of Prog Rock on the side. It was a glimpse into their second album, and it's looking good.
The two others in his trio are as excellent as Jim. Mark Whitlam is also everyone’s first call when looking for a drummer with an awesome skill set, but I suspect the ultimate reason he is so popular with composers is that he plays to the music: he is a spectacular drummer who doesn’t interfere with, but augments, the compositional direction.
The surprise star of the night was double bassist Roshan ‘Tosh’ Wijetunge. Tosh is not new to this trio, and I have seen him before in other contexts, but here he really shined both in the ensemble and in his many in solos. The first thing one noticed was his full, round tone and perfect volume balance in the group – always a problematic thing with double bassists.
The first set kicked right off with a new Blomfield original, Buddha, with a terrific arrangement and a terrific Tosh solo. Easton Walk, one of the few older Blomfield tunes, followed. It had rhythmic and chordal qualities that were reminiscent of Dave Brubeck - but Jim’s touch is quicker and lighter than the late, great Dave. Three Fall came next and was, I think, indicative of the direction of the Blomfield Trio’s upcoming album (they will be recording it this month). It began with a light tom pattern from Mark with Jim entering with quiet but building riffing on piano, then a a brilliant solo on his Prophet 6 synth. It was all very atmospheric - but the synth solo was spellbinding. Another side of Jim revealed itself in Mellow Drama, which began sounding like disco then became far more complex than any disco I’ve heard with elaborate arrangement, changing sections and a bit of bombast, until you realised you were listening to…Prog Rock. Quite an amazing excursion.
The set finished with two more songs, one, Every Way OK, was very beautiful indeed.
The second set continued apace, mostly new originals, another great bass solo on River Runs Deep, another standout tune in Strange Beauty, a really creative drum solo against a montuño, with Jim sounding like the under-appreciated Vince Guarldi in The Lines Between.
The audience was large (for a piano trio!) and stayed intact through the two sets and encore, such is the appreciation here for Jim Blomfield. That, and the music played tonight, bodes well for their upcoming album. Keep an eye out for it.
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