Troy Miller Live With Jason Rebello At Pizza Express

The promise was made by the fantastic venue and the exciting line-up of musicians which included Sting and Jeff Beck sideman Jason Rebello on piano and a pair of Berklee-educated US musicians in Jean Toussaint on saxophones and Mike Janisch on bass, but did Troy Miller’s concert at Pizza Express Jazz Club fulfill its promise? Opener 40 Days more or less set the pace for the rest of the evening: an angular melody with lots of rhythmic interplay, a powerful groove set up by the group and then a series of highly competent but somehow un-magical solos. Troy Miller Live With Jason Rebello At Pizza Express
While the music was slick, crisp and polished to a sheen, the relation between the heads and solos seemed distant, and the improvisers didn’t seem to get melodically attached to the chords, instead blowing endless patterns without really going anywhere. Vocalist Xantone Blacq added some soul to the proceedings, but he was criminally underused. There is no doubting his musicianship, but ultimately Miller could have heeded his own advice not to take ‘infinite solos’, as his leading role led him to indulge in long, overly technical improvisations that outstayed their welcome.

Maybe it was just opening night nerves but there was a sense of going through the motions much of the night and the evening lacked a magic spark until the final number, Thelonious Monk’s 'Green Chimneys', where Cleveland Watkiss and Julian Joseph were invited out of the audience and took to the stage. Watkiss’ larger than life stage presence and highly original scatting brought the band into the desired higher gear, bringing out great solos from Toussaint, Joseph and especially Janisch, plus a series of highly charged fours between Watkiss, Joseph, Toussaint and the leader, who really came into his own in the presence of his special guests.

Report: Mark Trounson

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