FringeReview UK 2019
The Gin Jazz Trio is an acronym of a rather special line-up. Greg Maddocks on flute, Ian Sawyers guitar and Nigel Pearson guitar. First letters of names form the acronym.
The Gin Jazz Trio sound a skinful, but it’s just an acronym of a rather special line-up. Greg Maddocks on flute, Ian Sawyers guitar and Nigel Pearson guitar too – so the first letters of their Christian names decide the Gin of their identity.
And what an identity. We’re used to individual line-ups but this has to be unique. And the programme too disarmingly announces ‘We will be playing as many of these tunes as we can fit into the time.’
This is a composer-led trio too, the flautist Greg Maddocks many of whose compositions had been voted in by the guitarists as one memorably put it, they couldn’t get the tune out of their heads. Nor did this listener.
The blend is laid back with a sudden pastoral intensity. That is, the guitars here are jazzy and not particularly Spanish flavoured, no duende. The flute, famously an Arcadian instrument, here in fact provides the bite, as was to become apparent later. But it’s clearly capable of lyrical blending too on top of the soft-strummed bed of the two guitars.
O Nelson’s ‘stolen Moments’ eases us into their soundworld. Maddocks’ own ‘This May Be’ with its three-note replication of the phrase has a cool and élan that recalls the best of British cool in the 1960s for instance though all such decades (from the 1960s) these days have blurred. It’s an infectiously memorable piece though. Simons and Marks’ ‘All of Me’ is another three-note melody with a descending repeat that marks it as one of the instant hits of its – and our – time.
It’s Maddocks who makes you think though. His ‘No Wind, It’ll Get Up soon’ twirls a kind of existential cheerfulness, an attractive tonal shift to deeper territory.
That was confirmed when Kosma’s ‘Autumnal’ – ‘Feuilles mortes’ was riffed in this arrangement – by Maddocks – which picks out the skeletal leaves of the tune, an even more distantly remembered son of an affair. By coincidence Sharon Elizabeth with the pianist composer Paul Lewis sang this in the original French at chapel Royal yesterday. This is an intriguing cleansing of the palate, and worth hearing again by anyone who loves the original. I wish there were time for encores.
Maddocks then supplied two particularly memorable tunes. I loved ‘Camino’ with its sharp rhythms and angular melody. ‘An Old Lover’ was the tune the guitarists couldn’t get out of their heads, a gentle valediction and twin to ‘Autumnal’ in fact. Though sounding nothing like it.
The medley that followed was a riot of colour. ‘Impossible V’ refers to the last melody. They’re all in 5/4, a catchy one by Maddocks, then Desmond’s fantastic ‘Take Five’, really laid back and taking five here but with a peppy upbeat to Schifrin’s ‘Mission Impossible’. I’ve always thought of this as a mini flute concerto, and so it proves here. The trio burst to teir top stride and Maddocks proves a tremendously individual and consummate flautist.
Van Ghent’s ‘Summer Song’ rounded us off, with a gentle return to melodic profiles heard earlier.
Gin Trio only had to miss the last one (Richardson’s ‘Groove Merchant’) – as two of us encouraged them to play it – partly as the pastoral announcer of the next concert amicably arrived to call the trio to the end of time and thank them. In truth they’d played a perfect set. A unique, consummate line-up.