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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Metered Magic: Andrea Vicari Trio @ The Lit & Phil – May 10


Andrea Vicari (piano); Andy Champion (bass); Russ Morgan (drums).  
(Review/photos by Jerry)

Andrea Vicari had worked with Andy Champion and Russ Morgan about 18 months ago on a musical project in the North-East so she sought them out when embarking on a “mini-tour” in the region starting here at that Geordie institution, the Lit & Phil. The reunion was a treat of a mini-gig (the usual one hour format) for the close-to-capacity room which ended with Andrea Vicari struggling to name-check our local heroes above the noise of enthusiastic and sustained applause!


The one-hour format often seems too short and here it necessitated some changes to the set-list: we never got to hear Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise and the last two numbers were “merged” (Vicari’s word) as the clock ticked remorselessly past 1.55. But what a merger it was – Johnny Green’s Body and Soul by way of an extended piano solo and then (my words) “it went all Monk-ish” in the biggest contrast imaginable and we were swinging along to Well, You Needn’t! This seemed to be done even faster than the original with Keystone Cops and a bit of Rhapsody in Blue thrown into the mix: it was immense fun bringing more smiling faces (pretty much everyone in the room!) than can be mustered at the average jazz gig. They don’t do average at the Lit & Phil! Earlier, in between numbers, the pianist had donned her glasses to check the audience reaction: if she remained in any doubt about their approval at the end, well she needn’t!

An original, Get Busy Living, had got the gig off to a driving start with a drummed intro which reminded me a little of the Paul Edis Sextet’s Administrate This. I got a close view of the drumming throughout the gig being able, unusually, to see both feet as well as the drummer’s hands. Someday My Prince Will Come featured a lot of brush-work including a fade to a whisper at the end while Russ Morgan drummed with his hands for much of their rousing version of Caravan. Elsewhere were sticks, mallets and some prestidigitation with a mobile-phone which enabled him to top up his parking seemingly in mid-tune! How’s that for dexterity? Close parking is essential when lugging double-bass or drum-kit to a gig and here it’s strictly one hour a go so musicians need good timing. Andy Champion’s low-tech solution was to leg it back to the car, seconds before kick-off. I hope that worked, too.


Jagged Stacks, another original was an evocative piece (inspired by rock-formations near Wick) with lots of variation of volume and a crashing ending. It put me in mind of the changing moods of the sea swirling around rocks. Don’t know if that was the intention, but my mind has a mind of its own! Punching Out was a world-premiere, apparently, and it, too, featured “big volume in the left hand” (my highly technical scribblings). Other, probably inaccurate, scribblings included “long, symphonic intro” and “big chords” on You Don’t Know What Love Is. Throughout, in a totally untechnical way, I really loved the piano playing. One spectator, on leaving, was heard to observe (he meant this as, and I repeat it as, a compliment): “That was great – she’s not afraid to attack the piano”. I’m sure Monk would have approved!
           
Sadly there was no time for an encore – more meters to feed!
Jerry

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