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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Geoff Eales @ The Maltings Jazz Weekend - October 14

Geoff Eales (piano)
(Review by Russell)
Lunchtime Saturday, the rain just about holding off on the second day of the inaugural Maltings’ ‘Jazz Weekend’. Berwick upon Tweed bustled as tourists mingled with locals out shopping, bed and breakfasts advertising ‘no vacancies’, the YHA on Dewar’s Lane doing good business.  
At two o’clock a near capacity Henry Travers Studio audience set off on a whirlwind tour of jazz piano from A to Z through one hundred years and more of the recorded history of the music. An almost impossible task, but if anyone could do it, Geoff Eales was the man. Billed simply as ‘The History of Jazz Piano’ Eales adopted the maxim ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. From Scott Joplin to Geoff Eales, and several superstar pianists in between, the chronology was laid out before us.
Ragtime Scott Joplin – Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer – played by Geoff Eales at the Maltings’ Steinway piano – not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Eales introduced each piece to, one suspects, an audience more than familiar with both pianists and tunes performed. Jelly Roll Morton (Eales) playing Maple Leaf Rag demonstrated the new thing – ‘swing’. It was clear to all that Eales had the history of jazz piano literally at his fingertips.
A Fats Waller medley – Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose – received rapturous applause, likewise Art Tatum and Tea for Two replete with quotes. Eales said: He was like god. A narrative was developing…Oscar Peterson. On hearing Tatum the great Canadian decided to stop playing,   said Eales. Sometime later OP returned to his practice and the rest is (jazz piano) history. Eales headed straight down the historical track on Night Train calling at Bebop Central to take a look at Bud Powell’s Bouncing with Bud and Thelonious Monk’s ’Round Midnight and Well, You Needn’t.
The house lights went up as Eales closed the first set with Errol Garner’s Misty.

As the second set opened, Fred Thelonius Baker was in the house to listen to his old pal Eales in the ‘locked-hands’ style of George Shearing. From Lullaby of Birdland to Bill Evans. Eales took a moment to fondly recall a tour he had undertaken in 2005 playing the music of Evans, adding the itinerary on that occasion sadly didn’t take him as far north as Berwick. Waltz for Debby provided some compensation, and, perhaps, the Welshman will one day return to play a Bill Evans’ concert. Eales made the observation that Evans, Horace Silver and Cecil Taylor were born within a twelve month period (1928-29), yet each went on to forge his own distinctive style…the impressionism of Evans, Silver’s contrasting Blue Note bluesy bop style and the freeform idiom pioneered by Taylor.

Geoff Eales rounded off his entertaining presentation with compositions by a stellar triumvirate of contemporary jazz pianists. McCoy Tyner’s Passion Dance – in an aside Eales suggesting those present with an understanding of such matters would know that Trane’s one-time sparring partner often incorporates fourths rather than thirds in his playing – and ECM mainstay Keith Jarrett’s My Song leading into Chick Corea’s up tempo Armando’s Rhumba.

Eales’ matinee performance comprised a plethora of styles and to think all were expertly executed by one man…Geoff Eales! By way of farewell, Eales played Eales. The Maltings’ Jazz Weekend is in its infancy. On this evidence, it could develop into a fully-fledged Berwick Jazz Festival.                     
Russell                                    

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