Gwilym Simcock

Gwilym Simcock

The Capstone Theatre – part of the Hope University Everton campus – has some good jazz gigs lined up this autumn, kicking off last night with the Gwilym Simcock Trio.  This was not the trio line-up that has appeared at various venues this summer, but his original trio of Gwilym on piano, Yuri Goloubev playing bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums.  As Gwilym explained, this was their first time playing together for three years.  We saw him Simcock and Sirkis a year ago at the Rodewald Suite when they were performing as part of Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Project and Sirkis played an unusual array of percussion instruments.

Asaf Sirkis

Asaf Sirkis

As usual with a Gwilym Simcock gig, it was an evening of fine and varied jazz, featuring several new compositions, as well as others from albums such as Blues Vignette and Good Days at Schloss Elmau. Three of the new compositions were tributes to admired musicians, and demonstrated the breadth of Simcock’s musical interests and influences.  Particularly outstanding was ‘Barber Blues’, a jaunty, angular piece having some of the characteristics of the Samuel Barber piano music that he enjoyed when he was training as a classical pianist. It was, as Gwilym explained by way of introduction, driven by a  left-hand ostinato, typical of Barber.

‘Kenny’s Way’ was dedicated to Kenny Wheeler, the Canadian trumpet and flugelhorn player, based in this country since the 1950s, and another musician greatly admired by Simcock, who explained that he had tried  to capture Wheeler’s distinctive and intricate compositional style.  Another number was a tribute to the American bass player Buster Williams.

Schloss Elmau

By way of introducing ‘Elmau Tage’ from Good Days at Schloss Elmau, Gwilym filled us in on his experience of recording the album at the luxury hotel in the Bavarian mountains.  The beautiful setting, with the studio windows affording spectacular views of the mountains, would have seemed to guarantee peace and relaxation.  However, with only one day to record the album, they were interrupted by outside noises on several occasions – once by the sound of metal food carts rattling over the courtyard cobblestones bringing lunch, and later by the buzz of a tractor mowing a meadow outside (a sound which can still be heard at the end of one of the album’s tracks, if you turn up the volume).

Yuri Goloubev

Yuri Goloubev

The trio complement each other perfectly, with Yuri Goloubev providing some exciting plucked bass lines and bow playing, while Asaf Sirkismatched the mood made every sound count on drums. Yuri Goloubev was born in Moscow, and studied classical bass and composition at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire. After a distinguished career in classical music Yuri moved to Milan in 2004 and has since dedicated himself to jazz.  Asaf Sirkis was born in Israel and settled in London in 1999.  He soon become part of the UK Jazz and world music scene and in 2000 formed The Orient House Ensemble with Gilad Atzmon, the band which has since recorded seven albums. In 2006 Asaf started a collaboration with the highly acclaimed saxophonist and composer Tim Garland as a member of his Lighthouse Trio alongside Gwilym Simcock.

One of the numbers played was ‘These are the Good Days’ off Good Days at Schloss Elmau. There’s a video on The Guardian website in which Gwilym Simcock explains how he wrote the tune and gives an insight into its complex interplay of keys and rhythm,  one of those in which Gwilym plays the inside of the piano to create a drum-like percussive effect.

At the close, Gwilym spoke of how impressed the three musicians were by the Capstone Theatre, saying that it was very unusual for them to play in a room of such high quality (and for him, the piano – a Steinway – was a joy, too).

Gwyilm Simcock must be on a high at present, nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize and critically acclaimed for his recording work.  He plays in a variety of jazz formations and collaborates with many senior jazz figures – on 12 November, he’ll be back on Merseyside at Pacific Road in Birkenhead (one of the last shows before the venue closes, sadly) playing with his ‘supergroup’, The Impossible Gentlemen, with guitarist  Mike Walker and American bass and drums stars Steve Rodby and Adam Nussbaum. Later this month, a live recording of the Simcock Trio will be broadcast  on Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up.

Gwilym Simcock interviewed about the 2011 Mercury Prize ‘Albums of the Year’ nomination:

Gwilym Simcock performing ‘These Are The Good Days’ at the Mercury Prize 2011 Albums of the Year launch in July 2011:


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