Steve Fishwick Trio Out To Lunch at Cadogan Hall, London

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I’m tempted to paraphrase the old musician’s joke about not knowing that there were two 12 o’clocks in the same day when contemplating the Cadogan Hall’s summer-long Out to Lunch series. Each of these intimate chamber jazz concerts starts at noon on the dot in the Hall’s spacious foyer, and despite what might seem an early start, the audience flocks in, the musicians are ready, the atmosphere is relaxed and almost invariably, the music is compelling.

None more so than with this week’s star trio headed by trumpeter Steve Fishwick with brother Matt on drums and Mike Gorman on organ. Steve is an engaging communicator but above all, a committed evangelist for hard bop’s heyday, deploying themes by Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and most magically for me, by Woody Shaw. The latter’s ‘The Organ Grinder’ with its alluring harmonic movement brought out the best in Steve’s playing, this at once stately, expansive yet exploratory, and always striving, the improvisation taking a linear route around and through the theme, Matt underpinning strongly as Gorman built his own complex response. Having started with Coltrane’s ‘Bessie’s Blues’ with its shapely riff and moved on via Heath’s ‘Far Away Lands’, Steve and company showed their bebop chops on Charlie Parker’s ‘Passport’, a fast-moving line that made the best use of Gorman’s intricacies as the trio found its groove.

What with a couple of his own originals and other pieces by bassists Stafford James and Ron Carter, it can be deduced that there was no allowance here for easy options, and happily, no letting up in the audience’s enthusiasm. What we heard and saw was just strong playing by all three musicians, Steve moving into the high register and then plummeting to the depths as he found new things to say on each of these time-honoured pieces. The 2015 Out to Lunch series finishes this week: look out for more of these midday dates next year.

– Peter Vacher