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John Geggie / Frank Kimbrough / Jean Martin: Ottawa, Canada April 17, 2010

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John Geggie/Frank Kimbrough/Jean Martin
Geggie Concert Series
NAC Fourth Stage, Ottawa, Canada
April 17, 2010

Over the past several years, amidst a variety of oddly-configured groups, Ottawa, Canada-based bassist John Geggie has brought a wealth of outstanding pianists to his annual Geggie Concert Series at the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage. From Marilyn Crispell

Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell
b.1947
piano
and Myra Melford
Myra Melford
Myra Melford
b.1957
piano
to Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
b.1970
keyboard
and Bill Carrothers
Bill Carrothers
Bill Carrothers
b.1964
piano
, Geggie has continued to pursue his "without a safety net" aesthetic, placing musicians into new and unexpected situations, and with minimal rehearsal. The only constant amongst them? To let the musicians loose and see what transpires. For his 2009/2010 season, Geggie brought a pianist with whom he'd been talking about collaborating for some time, and the result was an evening that, on paper, looked like it was going to be a relatively straight-ahead evening of mainstream jazz, but ultimately turned out to be far more.


Frank Kimbrough

Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
is no stranger to music without a safety net. His own most recent release, Rumors (Palmetto, 2010), was the result of what the New York-based pianist calls "a 'guerilla' session," orchestrated by photographer Jimmy Katz. Pulled together by Kimbrough with bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Jeff Hirshfield in a three-hour session the following day—recorded more like three friends playing together in a living room than the optimal acoustic setting of a recording studio, despite taking place in one—with little to no advance discussion about the material that Kimbrough chose the evening before, it's an album of remarkable spontaneity and focused intent.



Of course, Kimbrough is no stranger to more structured music, holding the piano chair in the Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
Orchestra for over 15 years. But for his intimate evening with Geggie, the emphasis was on creative interaction, in a trio that also featured ex-Ottawa drummer Jean Martin, now a busy player and engineer on the left-of-center Toronto scene, where he runs the adventurous Barnyard Records label. Kimbrough later synopsized the two sets this exploratory trio played as "Very interesting, playing Gregorian Chant, Bartok (or at least Bartok templates) , Mompu, Rollins, Ornette, and a standard or two all on the same night—they should all be so diverse. "



They should all be so diverse, indeed. Opening the first set with a Kimbrough original, the fluid title track from his trio album Quickening (Positone, 2003), the trio set the bar high for an evening that seemed only to get better with each successive piece. Kimbrough is a master of inside/outside playing; capable of the kind of oblique freedom within a loose structure that typifies his touchstones, amongst them Paul Bley

Paul Bley
Paul Bley
b.1932
piano
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
, Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
1937 - 2007
piano
and a hint of Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
b.1929
piano
. With a touch that could be feather light or harder edged, but with an underlying clarity that allowed it to be heard even when the trio played at a whisper, Kimbrough's ability to engender a collective stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas while also creating an overall arc across each heavily improvised piece vividly conveyed the trio's shared sense of discovery, as Kimbrough, Geggie and Martin pushed and pulled each other, testing the waters before quickly moving towards greater depths.

From left: Frank Kimbrough, John Geggie, Jean Martin



Listening to Rumors, it's hard not to feel the influence of drummer Paul Motian

Paul Motian
Paul Motian
1931 - 2011
drums
's temporal elasticity, and for an evening that also included a fragment from a Gregorian chant, and one of two excerpts from Hungarian composer Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos series of piano exercises—all arranged for a trio context by Geggie and using these sources as stepping off points for further collective free play—the legendary drummer's spirit continued to loom large. Martin proved capable of more overt time—especially during the second set where the trio took respectful but loose looks at Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
's enduring "In Your Own Sweet Way" and Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
' equally classic (and swinging) "Doxy"—but elsewhere, in the freer sections, including a characteristically liberated but still surprising take of Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
's often-recorded blues, "Turnaround," Martin's role was more as a colorist, adding dark cymbal swashes here, rapid-fire rim shots on his drums there. Soloing rarely, when he did, Martin proved equal to Kimbrough in creating solos of clear construction, even as they were pulled from the ether in the immediacy of the moment.


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