Geoff Simkins, Nikki Iles and Dave Green out to lunch at Cadogan Hall


Although billed as individuals, this effectively was the Geoff Simkins Trio and this is how their newly-released CD is badged. Reasonably enough, much of their pre-lunch Cadogan Hall programme came from the album and what an eclectic mix it turned out to be. Unsurprisingly, considering altoist Simkins' pedigree and playing stance, two of the pieces were by Lee Konitz but others came from composers as varied as Kenny Wheeler, Nelson Cavaquinho and the late Earl Zindars, this latter worthy known for his association with Bill Evans. There was also 'For DJC', a heartfelt collective tribute to guitarist Dave Cliff, for so long a playing associate for Simkins and now sidelined by illness.

'Make Someone Happy' was the opener, with Nikki Iles quietly chording behind the alto line, Simkins' sound pristine, the phrasing unhurried, the ideas properly formed, ahead of Iles' wonderfully varied solo, harmonically canny, her lines extended, with barrelling tremolos kicking in, as Dave Green took over in his usual industrious way. 'Elsa' by Zindars had a catchy theme, Simkins far from cool, quite impassioned in fact and then it was 'Friendly', the first of the Konitz pieces. This was a swinger whereas 'Old Ballad' by Wheeler was a statelier affair, the alto timbre wistful, the improvisation spacious and considered. Simkins values tonal purity and a slight vibrato, with nothing rough-edged, the dynamic range modest rather raucous, the to-and-fro with his companions clearly pleasing to all three.

'Mooch Too Early' by a New Yorker whose name I failed to catch was a musical palimpsest, imposing Bill Evans chordal shapes on top of Bird's 'Moose The Mooch', the resulting zig-zag line executed at breakneck speed, before 'For DJC' took a gentler turn around the block. 'Screen Jurer' by Zindars allowed Iles to find all sorts of inventive responses, underlining just how unfailingly creative a player she is. This was three-way interplay of the highest order but all, as the late Kenny Everett was wont to say, in the best possible taste. Look out for the album.

– Peter Vacher