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Ignasi Terraza Trio: Bangkok, October 12, 2011

Ian Patterson By

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Ignasi Terazza Trio
The Living Room,
Bangkok
October 12, 2011

Pianist/composer Ignasi Terraza knows what he likes and is not to be swayed by the dictates of fashion; so it was that this refined yet exciting pianist—supported by double bassist Pierre Boussaguet and drummer Esteve Pi—treated the Living Room to a high-class exhibition of swing and bop-infused virtuosity, honed from nearly thirty years immersed in the jazz tradition. It was also a return to the venue where the same trio recorded Live at the Living Room, Bangkok (Swit Records, 2011) just a year earlier, and the set was made up of much of the same material as then.

The first set showcased originals for the most part, and Terraza's swinging style, firmly rooted in the old school tradition, contained the elegance and exceptional fluidity of pianists Oscar Peterson and early period Ahmad Jamal. The influence of Jamal's lighter touch was particularly notable on the early bars of "An Emotional Dance," though Pi's gradually more insistent drumming and the pianist's long, tumbling lines altered the mood of the piece considerably. Boussaguet felt every note of his way on an extended, lyrical bass solo, and, as the trio reunited and upped the pace, Terraza revealed his technical prowess in a compelling solo full of blues and melodic flair.

Whether on a slower number like Maria Mendez Grever's "What a Difference a Day Makes" or livelier fare such as another original, "Tempo Cambia," and saxophonist Charlie Parker's classic bop workout "Ornithology," Terraza's trio swung, with the leader's sure, inventive play always to the fore. On the first set-closer, "Rain Falling," Boussaguet's fast walking bass line gave way to a compelling improvisation. An active player—though never too busy—Boussaguet's probing and imaginative accompaniment provided intuitive counterpoint to Terraza, and an even keel.

A broader musical palette colored the second set, with calypso, bossa nova and Catalan folk flavors all following the bop opener, "Night is Coming." On this number, Terraza's terrific one-handed solo danced merrily, leaning between the blues of pianists Wynton Kelly and Thelonious Monk. It was a hard act to follow, but Boussaguet and Pi both impressed when it was their turn, though there was a curious lack of bass pedal in Pi's vocabulary throughout the evening.

The subtlest interaction of the evening took place on Rodgers and Hart's "Isn't it Romantic?," which could almost have been a tribute to Jamal at his most elegant—clearly a strong reference for Terraza. Blues permeates Terraza's playing, though the obvious vehicle of Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Garrel's "Georgia on My Mind" was given a very personal interpretation, his bold chords and stride-like figures bringing the song to a boil.

Large swathes of Thailand have suffered the worst flooding in half a century, and with Bangkok threatened shop keepers were preparing for the worst, building cement walls in front of their shop entrances. However, from the safety of the second floor of the Sheraton Grande Hotel, which houses The Living Room, thoughts of flooding were momentarily suspended as Terraza's delightful calypso, "Under the Sun"—with Pi particularly lively—transported those in the club to Caribbean climes.

On Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado" and a snappy, swinging version of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" the trio was joined by Singaporean vocalist Michelle Chua, a confident singer with a clean tone who demonstrated clear fondness for the material. Catalan composer Federico Mompou's "Canco numero 6" was a grooving, bluesy interpretation of a traditional folk piece. "Oscar's Will"—a Scott Joplin-esque tribute to Canadian jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson—saw Terraza racing up and down his keys at dizzying speed. Pi delivered a blistering solo in reply before the trio closed out.

Ignasi Terraza may look to the past for inspiration, but his interpretations of classic material and his own compositions tell very personal stories. A wonderful technician capable of great finesse and powerful, crashing waves, Terraza's improvisations never neglect the blues nor do they ever forget to swing. This concert underlined Terraza's status as a pianist worthy of far greater attention, and this trio as one of the most swinging on the Old Continent. It also underlined The Living Room's reputation as the premier venue in Bangkok for quality jazz. Terraza and The Living Room go well together, and hopefully it won't be too long before the trio and venue are reunited.

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