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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Martin Litton and Nick Gill: Customs House: Friday March 15, 2013


Nick Gill/Martin Litton (pianos)
(Review by Ann Alex.)
It was as if we were at a Harlem rent party or a New Orleans bordello, the tunes and anecdotes tumbled out from these two gentlemen, dressed for the occasion in smart trousers and grey waistcoat (Martin), and (Nick) in black and red striped blazer, equally stylish trousers and, for the second set, red and white shoes with that (1920’s?) curved pattern, wish I knew what those sort of shoes are called.  Two upright pianos, diagonally back to back, presumably so that the players could communicate, although both players went solo as well.  Marvellous, lively, up and at ‘em rags and stride. I was a bit frustrated – I wanted to dance! 
Jelly Roll Morton's  Big Fat Ham, a tune where the ladies of the brothel had to try to kick a ham suspended from the ceiling when dancing; Ellington’s Swampy River, a composition with a tango section in the middle and all sorts else going on; Manhattan Rag, (Hoagy Carmichael) with it’s music box effect; Fats Waller’s Handful Of Keys, played fast, which, Martin said, was meant to be a challenge to the skills of the pianist who was to follow after.
Nick chose the Roger’s piano and Martin remained at the Knight before the pianistic pugilists slugged it out on the well-known Maple Leaf Rag. A split decision but no one could decide which way!
The mood and style changed quite suddenly as they moved into some gasbook material – Gershwin’s  The Man I Love. Nick trilling away like a Budgie Blues Bird whilst Martin played Mother Hen.
Nick continued alone with a slow version of Joplin’s Gladiolus Rag.  He pointed out that we were uncertain about what speed these rags were originally played at.  There followed Porter’s Begin The Beguine, Nick’s own composition, a ‘novelty’ rag, Splinters; and then, a surprise treat, Nick singing Gershwin’s They All Laughed.  Other delights were the duo’s Honky Tonk Train Blues with its train sounds of whistle and hooter; Nick singing a sensitive Buddy Can You Spare A Dime; his self-penned song about busking - Sing a Song For Sixpence; Joplin’s Rag Time Dance, with our players stamping out the beat;  the  Rachmaninov influenced The War’s Over; Gershwin’s Swanee.  The performance was rounded off with 12th Street Rag and St Louis Blues.  I could have listened to this happy music for the rest of the evening.
The gig had been organised by the late Mike Durham, and Martin paid tribute to Mike.  I like to think that Mike was perhaps listening to all this from another part of the universe.
Ann Alex     

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