Pianist/composer Gwilym Simcock has achieved a lot in a short time. His debut album as leader, Perception (Basho, 2007) was roundly praised as heralding the arrival of a significant new talent.
Prior to that Simcock had captured attention for lighting up Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Tim Garland's Lighthouse Trio and Malcolm Creese's Acoustic Triangle.
Awards and commissions began to roll in accompanied by a certain amount of hype; Chick Corea labeled him a "creative genius" and comparisons between the talent of Simcock and Brad Mehldau andKeith Jarrett soon became commonplace.
However, as the old saying goes there is no smoke without fire, and Simcock's ambitious double CD Blues Vignette (Basho, 2009) is an impressive distillation of his classical upbringing and his jazz soul, marking him out as an original voice.
Featuring Simcock solo, in a duo setting with cellist Cara Berridge and in a trio format with double-bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer James Maddren, Simcock's eclecticism is never less than absorbing. The line between classical music and jazz is not so much blurred as wiped out. It is, as Simcock emphasizes, all just music.
All About Jazz: How did you find your way to jazz so late in life?
Gwilym Simcock: I had a classical music background but wanted to find a different angle. I was introduced to jazz whilst I was still at classical music school and found an area which is the one I seem to operate in now. This was really the only way to go . The first thing I heard of jazz was Keith Jarrett and of course the way he plays the piano has the classical sensibilities and that area felt completely like home.
At the time I got into jazz I was getting a bit fed up of going along to my piano lessons, where you're told how to play every single note. Then you do a lunchtime performance at music school and all the other people in the audience are playing the same piece of music and I didn't like that competitive right or wrong element of classical music.
So finding jazz where you find your way and create your own voice was a really major thing for me; for it to come along at that time was very fortunate. I left music school to and went to the Royal Academy of Music to do a jazz course.
I went away from classical music for a few years, but I've definitely come back to it in the last few years because you realize when you've spent so much of your life studying something then it seems like a shame not to utilize that in what you do. And you're trying to find a way to be yourself and sound different to everyone else. You've got to use what you've learnt and your background to create that voice, otherwise there's no substance to it.