Gwilym Simcock – Blues Vignette (2009)

FrontCover1Gwilym Simcock (born 24 February 1981) is a Welsh pianist and composer working in both jazz and classical music, and often blurring the boundaries of the two.

Simcock was chosen as one of the 1000 Most Influential People in London by the Evening Standard. He was featured on the front cover of the August 2007 issue of the UK’s leading Jazz journal Jazzwise Magazine.

Simcock was born in Bangor, Gwynedd. At the age of eleven he attained the highest marks in the country for his Associated Board Grade 8 exams – on both piano and French horn. He went on to study classical piano, French horn and composition at Chetham’s School, Manchester, where he was introduced to jazz by pianist and teacher Les Chisnall and bassist and teacher Steve Berry. He went on to study jazz piano at The Royal Academy of Music, London with John Taylor, Nikki Iles, Nick Weldon and Geoff Keezer.

He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with a first-class honours degree and the “Principal’s Prize’ for outstanding achievement. Whilst at the Royal Academy of Music he studied with many renowned musicians including Milton Mermikides.

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In 2008 he was commissioned to perform at The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He composed a Piano Concerto “Progressions” which he performed with his trio and the BBC Concert Orchestra on 9 August 2008, broadcast live on BBC2 TV.

On 5 October 2008 he was featured in an evening at the King’s Place Opening Festival in which he performed four concerts leading four different groups including a duo with John Taylor.

In 2006 he was the first jazz musician to be selected for the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme, and this was extended to 2008. It involved numerous recordings that were broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as solo performances, and his trio appearance at the Wigmore Hall during the London Jazz Festival 2006 (broadcast 7 July 2007).

His trio, which has performed at festivals and venues worldwide such as the North Sea Jazz Festival 2007, now features James Maddren (drums) and Yuri Goloubev (bass), while his debut album featured Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Phil Donkin, Martin France and Ben Bryant. He was chosen by Chick Corea for a solo concert performance and live recording at Klavier Festival Ruhr 2007. This concert was broadcast on WDR radio and 20,000 copies were given away as a cover mount CD in Germany’s leading music magazine Fonoforum.

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In 2011 his album Good Days At Schloss Elmau was one of the twelve nominees for the Mercury Music Prize, ultimately losing to PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake.[2]

He was a member of Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio, however left in 2013 being replaced by John Turville. He was a member of Malcolm Creese’s Acoustic Triangle, Stan Sulzmann’s Neon, and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks. He has also played with musicians including Dave Holland, Lee Konitz, Bob Mintzer, Bobby McFerrin, Kenny Wheeler, Iain Ballamy, Julian Argüelles, Pete King, Don Weller, Steve Waterman, and Torsten de Winkel / New York Jazz Guerrilla. He is a founder member of The Impossible Gentlemen.

He also plays French horn[3] and has played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO), the BBC Big Band, and with Kenny Wheeler on his 2003/2005 tour.

In recent times he has been on tour with legendary US guitarist Pat Metheny in a quartet featuring Linda Oh and Antonio Sanchez. (wikipedia)

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And here´s his second solo-album:

And the album launched his new trio with extraordinary, classically trained Russian bassist Yuri Goloubev and young UK drum star James Maddren as well as documenting Gwilym’s emerging voice as a solo pianist. The first CD offers a mix of stunning improvisations and new Simcock compositions as well as insightful interpretations of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and the popular tune “On Broadway”. It also provides a brief window into the mind of a composer who mixes classical and jazz without effort, with a recording of a suite for cello and piano originally written for the opening of London’s newest venue King’s Place. Classical cellist Cara Berridge features on this work. The trio CD is a stunning mix of Simcock compositions and brilliant interpretations of great classics such as “Black Coffee” and “Cry Me A River”.

As Gwilym himself says “recording an album is like taking a photograph. An album is a document of a specific moment in time, a vignette, an insight into the stage that one as a musician has reached. This album marks both the beginning of a fresh journey with a new trio, and documents my continuing quest towards finding an individual voice as a solo pianist”.

He goes on to say: “All of this music is neither ‘Jazz’ nor ‘Classical’. It is just music, and the type of music that interests and stimulates me. What I feel is important in music is lyricism, subtlety and clarity in harmonic and rhythmic movement, and an overall sense of an emotional connection with the listener, whatever the context of the music may be”. (press release)

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“The first of this double CD collection is a wonderful display of Simcock’s gifts as a solo pianist as well as his talents as a composer in jazz and classical idioms”. (Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times)

“Just when you thought the piano could go no further in jazz one emerges to raise the bar of invention and virtuosity still higher. On this recording Gwilym Simcock seems to have breached a dam of inhibition and let loose a flood of music that is truly exhilarating”. (Helen Mayhew, JazzFM)

“Gwilym Simcock’s latest Blues Vignette (Basho) adds to the British pianist’s growing reputation is an ambitious double album deftly covering both solo and trio formats with some vivid originals evoking Jarrett and Bill Evans while skilfully straddling the classical and jazz hemispheres”. (James McGowan, Tribune)

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“Simcock is certainly going to open some eyes and ears in North America with this ambitious release, which demonstrates why this still young musician and composer is starting to be mentioned as being among the very best in the world” (JazzChicago.net)

“The balance Simcock achieves between compositional structure and improvisation is the thread which runs through the trio numbers and is the unifying strand between the two CDs. Each is an inseparable part of Simcock’s emerging musical identity. It will be fascinating to see how this trio develops over time, for its potential is clearly great. Undoubtedly one of the year’s most satisfying releases”. (Ian Patterson, Allaboutjazz)

“Simcock’s imagination really does seem to flow freely across classical and jazz without noticing the joins. Simcock, Goloubev and James Maddren celebrate the trio tradition of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett on some vivid originals here – and the young leader sounds as if he’s wearing his immense knowledge more lightly, yet using it more incisively, than ever before”. (John Fordham, The Guardian)

And I add a small booklet with more reviews.

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Personnel:
Yuri Goloubev (bass)
James Maddren (drums)
Gwilym Simcock (piano)
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Cara Berridge (cello on 09. + 10.)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01.  Little People (Simcock) 6.56
02. Exploration On Mvt II Of Grieg Piano Concerto (Simcock) 8.33
03. On Broadway (Mann/Weil) 4.14
04. Improvisation I – Statues (Simcock) 3.05
05. Improvosation II – Letter To The Editor (Simcock) 3.49
06. Improvisation III – 
Be Still Now (Simcock) 4.04
07. Caldera (Simcock) 9.38
08. Jaco And Joe (Simcock) 9.20
09. Suite For Cello And Piano Part 1 – Kinship (Simcock) 14.56
10. Suite For Cello And Piano Part 2 – Homeward (Simcock) 6.04

CD 2:
01. Introduction (Simcock) 4.45
02. Tundra (Simcock) 7.04
03. Blues Vignette (Simcock) 8.11
04. Black Coffee (Burke) 5.22
05. Longing To Be (Simcock) 12.16
06. Nice Work If You Can Get It (Gershwin) 6.35
07. Cry Me A River (Hamilton) 8.05
08. 1981 (Simcock) 8.29

CDs

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More from Gwilym Simcock:
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Gwilym Simcock – Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite (2018)

FrontCover1.jpgGwilym Simcock has carved out a career as one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the European scene. The Briton moves effortlessly between jazz and classical music, with a ‘harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions’. Gwilym has been hailed as a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability, and his music has been widely acclaimed as ‘engaging, exciting, often unexpected, melodically enthralling, complex yet hugely accessible’, and above all ‘wonderfully optimistic’.

Gwilym’s influences are wide ranging, from jazz legends including Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Jaco Pastorius, to classical composers including Maurice Ravel, Henri Dutilleux, Béla Bartók and Mark-Anthony Turnage. In 2017, Gwilym toured with Pat Metheny, Linda Oh and Antonio Sanchez promoting Metheny’s Real Book album. Although principally a jazz artist, Gwilym has composed numerous works for larger Classical ensemble that combine through-composed elements with improvisation, creating a sound that is distinctive and very much his own.

Julian Joseph presents Gwilym Simcock’s jazz influenced version of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite specially arranged for piano, saxophone and string quartet:

Children’s Corner, L. 119, is a 6-movement suite for solo piano by Claude Debussy. It was published by Durand in 1908, and was first performed by Harold Bauer in Paris on 18 December that year. In 1911, an orchestration by André Caplet was premiered and subsequently published. A typical performance of the suite lasts roughly 15 minutes.

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Debussy composed Children’s Corner between 1906 and 1908. He dedicated the suite to his daughter, Claude-Emma (known as “Chou-Chou”), who was born on 30 October 1905 in Paris. She is described as a lively and friendly child who was adored by her father. She was three years old when he dedicated the suite to her in 1908. The dedication reads: “A ma chère petite Chouchou, avec les tendres excuses de son Père pour ce qui va suivre. C. D.” (To my dear little Chouchou, with tender apologies from her father for what follows).

The suite was published by Durand in 1908, and was given its world première in Paris by Harold Bauer on 18 December that year. In 1911, an orchestration of the work by Debussy’s friend André Caplet received its premiere, and was subsequently published. A typical performance of the suite lasts roughly 15 minutes. (by wikipedia)

Another little masterpiece of Gwilym Simcock !

Recorded live at the BBC Studios, Salford, UK;
March 24, 2018. Very good BBC Radio 3 “Jazz Line-Up” broadcast

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Personnel:
Rob Buckland (saxophone)
Francesca Gilbert (viola)
Lucy McKay (violin)
Rachel Shakespeare (cello)
Gwilym Simcock (piano)
Simmy Singh (violin)

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Tracklist:
01. Intro 8.45

Children’s Corner Suite:
02. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum 4.23
03. Jimbo’s Lullaby 5.29
04. Talk 7.25
05. Serenade For The Doll 4.24
06. The Snow is Dancing 5.13
07. Talk 3.02
08. The Little Shepherd/Golliwog’s Cakewalk 13.56
09. Talk 1.19

10. Deux Conversations avec Monsieur Croche Pt 1 5.31
11. Deux Conversations avec Monsieur Croche Pt 2 6.46

Music composed by Claude Debussy & Gwilym Simcock

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Gwilym Simcock – Good Days At Schloss Elmau (2011)

FrontCover1When Chick Corea calls you a creative genius, you know you’re on to something. Praise like this is nothing new to UK piano whiz kid Gwilym Simcock, though.

So, here´another album by a master of contemporary  jazz piano:

You have to worry about a man who entitles one of his pieces Can We Still Be Friends? It threatens a gloopiness which this album does sometimes deliver. But when Simcock stops mooning and becomes energised the results can be terrific. He’s a formidable musician as well as a formidable pianist, with a feeling for the way harmony can create architecture as well as momentary colours – a rare gift. (by Ivan Hewett)

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Unaccompanied piano performance is a challenge 30-year-old Gwilym Simcock hasn’t confronted since his childhood classical training, and one that’s all the greater because it invites comparison with a significant personal influence: Keith Jarrett. But this highly varied set is more explicitly classical in its harmonic mobility and melodic flourishes and more elaborately composed than Jarrett’s jazz work. Simcock can play so many things at once, while often developing pieces through progressions of modulations and changing motifs that a few listenings are required to tease it out. If this all-original and mostly first-take set has any drawbacks, they come from occasional over-elaboration and the odd hint of sugariness. But it’s mostly an awesome solo debut. The chord-rammed blizzard of sound on Wake Up Call borders on free music, Northern Song recalls Django Bates’s melodies and the bluesy, sublimely paced and faintly Mehldauesque Gripper is surely one of the great contemporary jazz piano performances. (by John Fordham)

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Personnel:
Gwilym Simcock (piano)

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Tracklist:
01. These Are The Good Days 6.06
02.  Mezzotint 6.37
03. Gripper 6.35
04.  Plain Song 5.49
05. Northern Smiles 5.44
06. Can We Still Be Friends? 12.17
07. Wake Up Call 5.27
08. Elmau Tage 9.28

Music composed by Gwilym Simcock

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Schloss Elmau (Gemany)

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Gwilym Simcock – Perception (2007)

FrontCover1When Chick Corea calls you a creative genius, you know you’re on to something. Praise like this is nothing new to UK piano whiz kid Gwilym Simcock, though. He’s won more prizes than he’s had hot dinners, but on this long-overdue first album he leaves room for his band to shine too.

Odd time signatures and rhythmic surprises are trademarks of Gwilym’s up-tempo pieces on Perception – inspiration he’s got from playing with Bill Bruford. Melodic lines fall over each other in “Sneaky” and rhythms criss-cross in “A Typical Affair”. Martin France’s stunning drumming ignites the fast passages on the album, and the pitter-patter of his percussion complements Gwilym’s impassioned playing, while John Parricelli’s guitar can be rocky-electric (on “Sneaky”), or warm and classical-sounding (on “Time and Tide”).

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On Gwilym’s slower tunes, like “And Then She Was Gone”, he becomes meditative and spacious. From a one-finger intro, thick layers of piano, bass, and drums build up, giving Stan Sulzmann’s sax just the canvas it needs to expand and soar. In “Affinity”, delicate, dexterous piano lines and chattering drums link in lacy patterns around a Latin feel, held together by melodic sax and Phil Donkin’s fine, singing bass.

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Gwilym was classically trained before becoming besotted by jazz, and it’s obvious in his solo pieces. His touch makes music into raindrops in “Voices”, as notes start on their separate journeys, jostle together, and order themselves into a quiet resolution. A live recording of “My One and Only Love” opens like a Beethoven sonata, the beautiful melody floating on effortless ripples of notes.

This album’s an ideal showcase for Gwilym Simcock. He plays solo, leads a trio and a five-piece, plays his own compositions and throws in a couple of imaginatively interpreted standards. Perception may have been a long time coming, but it’s a gem of a debut. (by Kathryn Shackleton , BBC)

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Personnel:
Ben Bryant (percussion)
Phil Donkin (bass)
Martin France (drums)
John Parricelli (guitar)
Gwilym Simcock (piano)
Stan Sulzmann (saxophone)
Written-By – Gwilym Simcock (tracks: 1 to 8)

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Tracklist:
01. A Typical Affair (Simcock) 8.16
02 Sneaky (Simcock) 6:13
03 And Then She Was Gone (Simcock) 5:56
04 Time And Tide (Simcock) 9:29
05 Almost Moment (Simcock) 3:55
06 Voices (Simcock) 3:12
07 Affinity (Simcock) 6:53
08 Message (Simcock) 8:00
09. The Way You Look Tonight (Fields/Kern) 8.26
10. My One And Only Love (live) (Wood/Mellin) 8.28

CD

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Reviews

The Impossible Gentlemen – Live At The Funkhaus Studio (Munich/Germany) (2016)

FrontCover1This Anglo-American supergroup could be seen as a canny way of raising the international profile of two of Britain’s most inventive jazz musicians.

These gentlemen first assembled in 2009, with pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker backed by flashy US drummer Adam Nussbaum and veteran bass legend Steve Swallow. The latter has now been replaced by another American, Steve Rodby, and the lineup has been expanded to feature Iain Dixon, who multitasks on reeds and synth. But the focus remains on the guitar/piano pairing of Simcock and Walker.

The two write most of the material, which often suffers from the curse of so much contemporary jazz in that it is overwritten, packed with tricksy chord changes and byzantine, unnavigable melodies. Where this is sometimes a problem on record, it becomes less of an issue tonight, as so many songs become vehicles for melodic and textural improvisation. (by www.theguardian.com)

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And here´s a superb and excellent FM broadcast recording … The Impossible Gentlemen on tour through Germany to promote their third album called “Let’s Get Deluxe” from 2016.

A guitar and piano frontline is not the easiest line-up to manage. Those of us who saw the Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau band in Symphony Hall a few years ago will know that even for two musicians of such standing, it is by no means plain sailing. There are icebergs lurking dangerously out there. Pat and Brad could learn a lot from Gwil and Mike. They never got in each other’s way, neither did they inhibit each others’ natural style.

And, in a world where some jazz musicians can still be a little too cool, what a joy to be witness to the clear warmth and mutual respect of all the musicians on the stage. (by thejazzbreakfast.com)

That´s what I call a supergroup !

In other words: Let´s hear Jazz deluxe !

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Personnel:
Iain Dixon (saxophone, keyboards)
Adam Nussbaum (drums)
Steve Rodby (bass)
Gwylim Simcock (keyboards)
Mike Walker (guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Let´s Get Deluxe (Simcock/Walker) 5.52
02. You Won´t Be Around To See It (Simcock) 9.28
03. Announcement by Gwylim Simcock 0.26
04. It Could Have Been A Simple Goodbye (Simcock/Walker) 10.37
05. Clockmaker (Walker) 9.50
06. Dogtime (Simcock/Walker) 10.07

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Iain Dixon