John Taylor & Gwilym Simcock in Edinburgh. April 2008.

I haven’t been to jazz gigs for a while, but I recently went to two.

I caught a concert by pianists John Taylor and Gwilym Simcock at the Queen’s Hall.

The gig started with Taylor playing a solo set. Looking just like a slightly jazzier Bernard Cribbins, he sat at the piano and played. It was lovely music – thoughtful and peaceful, slightly meandering – rather like Satie. He played three or four numbers before he was joined by Simcock.


Cribbins – Taylor
(neither picture is mine!)

They played a few standards – I can’t remember what – and they didn’t sound like standards, really. They played well together – there was a lot of understanding between them. The music was less ethereal than when Taylor was playing alone – the tunes a little more recognisable.

In the second set, Simcock played solo, and then he was joined by Taylor. Last time I heard Simcock play was during the last London Jazz Festival, and I wasn’t too impressed: he seemed technically excellent, but everything the band played was in a funny time, and it seemed way too clever-clever: it just didn’t work for me. This time, he played beautifully, stripped back to the bare piano (albeit a rather fine grand piano) – he seemed more focused, less out to impress. I thought he was great.

For the last few numbers, Taylor rejoined Simcock on stage and they played a few more standards. A really enjoyable, and rather beautiful, gig.

This gig had been organised by the singer Todd Gordon in the guise of Jazz International, a new venture he has set up to promote jazz. I chatted to him in the interval: I had avoided his gigs before (not liking jazz vocalists much!), but he seemed a really nice, genuine guy. It wasn’t a great crowd – the downstairs area was about a third full, I’d guess, and I think he was a little disappointed, especially for what seemed like a great line-up – John Taylor hadn’t played solo in Scotland before. Still, it was a Thursday night, and mid-week gigs are often quiet – and I am not sure it had been well publicised – I had only found out about it because the Jazz Bar had included a note about it in their newsletter.

There were some interesting people there, though: aside from the usual faces one sees at just about every jazz gig, Gordon Brewer was there – he must have been having a night off from Newsnight – and there were a large number of Edinburgh’s jazz musicians in the audience, too – pianists Chick Lyall and Brian Kellock amongst them.

I went to the Jazz Bar itself for the first time in an age a couple of weeks ago to see alto saxophonist Peter King. Another great gig; it made me think I really should get out to see music more often.

He was playing in a quartet with Martin Drew on drums, Steve Melling on piano and Geoff Gascoyne on bass. The first set was good, but as so often happens, the second set was brilliant – some really fiery playing, great solos from King, and wonderful support by the band. They played a couple of Chick Corea numbers – a surprising choice for an alto player – and a long suite of King’s dedicated to John Coltrane, which was just superb.

I took some pictures… Actually, I took 82 pictures. The problem with digital cameras – particularly since he didn’t move much, so I got 82 very similar photographs! Here are my favourite.

DSC_0032 bw

DSC_0044 bw

DSC_0008 bw

DSC_0049 bw

* * *

I actually have a couple of connections with Martin Drew, and it was quite strange to see him. When I was thirteen, and I got my first drum kit, I took some drum lessons, and Drew was my teacher. I didn’t take many – I wasn’t that good, and I didn’t enjoy the lessons (I wanted to hit things rather than study the dots).

And then he played as part of a quartet at my father’s memorial service, nearly twenty years ago.

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