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Pianist John Bickerton declares...”I am no “young lion” and am happy not to be one. I learned about jazz in the 1970s and the groove then was to find your own sound, that was the premium.......”. Well, on his debut release for the Leo Lab label, “The John Bickerton Trio” effectively illustrate an altogether stylistic approach thanks to Bickerton’s uncanny melding of melody into a somewhat anatomic albeit fresh compositional approach. Shadow Boxes is all about weaving clusters surrounded by well-stated themes as Mr. Bickerton often utilizes heavy handed block chords complete with poignant lyricism along with avant-garde tendencies witnessed on the opening piece, “Answers Not Asked”. Bickerton performs as though he were belting out torch songs behind the keys. A vocalist trapped within a modern jazz pianist’s body? Perhaps – yet Bickerton performs with a great degree of emphasis and enthusiasm amid the swirling almost circular rhythms provided by bassist Matthew Heyner and drummer Rashid Bakr. “Spirit World” is daunting and ominous performed within the free jazz scheme of things. Here Bickerton plucks the piano strings along with Heyner’s delightful and effective arco-bass performances as the overall tone of this composition seems to capture one’s personal interpretation of the spirit world as The Trio open the doors to imagination and imagery. “Cortege” sounds like some sort of mutant dance theme thanks to Bakr’s off center samba beat and Heyner’s forceful arco-bass work. On this piece, Bickerton suggests a subliminal melody line along with clever rhythmic developments. Bickerton provides the listener with clues pr pieces of the puzzle. A sharp approach to your – not so standard piano trio format. “Aviary Breakout” adheres to the conversational nature of modern or free jazz incorporating various tempi, themes and moods, which continues into the final track, “Meeting After Dark”.
John Bickerton is a fine pianist! Plenty of absorbing and interesting ideas as the band maintain a pleasing and sonorous flow throughout. From the onset it becomes quite apparent that Bickerton has done his homework as we wholeheartedly agree with his statements with regards to - finding his own, distinctive voice as a musician. On that note, we anxiously await Mr. Bickerton’s next move! Recommended. * * * *
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.