Anyone bold or foolhardy enough to essay a career in jazz would be advised to start young, and commence building themselves an audience as soon as they can. Pianist Dave Drake was already commanding attention on the Brighton scene before he’d sat his GCSEs, and quickly established enough of a name to attract some very exciting players down from London to play at his Verdict gigs, which created such a buzz that they provided the club with some of it’s fullest houses in the early days. He’s currently studying at the New School in NYC, but back home for the summer break, and joined tonight by an old associate possessed of an equally prodigious talent. Riley Stone-Lonergan comes garlanded with awards, and a burgeoning reputation as a tenorist to watch out for.
Drake established his local rep as much with his contemporary-styled writing as his playing, and Stone-Lonergan’s CV includes cutting-edge work with LOCUS, yet tonight’s set-list includes such evergreens as “The More I See You”, “The End Of A Love Affair”, and even “Stomping At The Savoy”. And it’s on these old chestnuts that this young band really shines. Drake largely eschews the obvious pyrotechnics in favour of a more composerly approach. He’ll tease out motifs, inverting and twisting them around in a locked-hand style, playing with form and space in a manner reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal, or alternating the smoothest of Shearing-esque voicings with startling dissonances. His attack can be devastating, shading away instantly into the subtlest of dynamics, and his time is impeccable. The combination is riveting – unpredictable in the most satisfying way, a combination of influences whose familiarity makes their juxtaposition all the more intriguing.
Like his co-leader, Stone-Lonergan offers an idiosyncratic mix – his light but incisive tone recalling now-unfashionable giants such as Getz or Warne Marsh, while his harmonic imagination is thoroughly contemporary. On “Stomping At The Savoy” he’s simply astonishing, demonstrating an amazing control at both extremes of the register, his beautifully structured lines delivered with an impeccable confidence so that his virtuosity never feels forced or showy. “My One And Only Love” is played with simplicity, utter conviction and an emotional depth remarkable in one so young. His sole featured original, a folk-tinged pentatonic melody reminiscent of Zawinul’s Alpine pastoralism, is similarly heartfelt.
In support, Peter Adam Hill on drums and Tim Thornton on bass are both exemplary – flexible, intuitive, impressive in solo or support, swinging or subtle as demanded; they’re all over this material. It’s a quartet who seem to be utterly at home in the tradition without being at all in thrall to it, offering an enthralling glimpse into the future for this next generation of players.
– Eddie Myer