Jef Neve Trio, Yaron Herman Trio, Pizza Express, Wednesday 21 Nov - London jazz Festival

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The piano trio appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance post-Brad Meldhau, EST and the Bad Plus, so seeing two of Europe’s finest trios brought together in the atmospheric setting of Pizza Express Jazz Club was a major success for the London Jazz Festival. Jef Neve Trio, Yaron Herman Trio, Pizza Express, Wednesday 21 Nov - London jazz Festival
Paris-based Israeli pianist Yaron Herman took to the stage first, his delicate solo piano improvisation eventually emerging into Monkish original ‘Stompin’. When bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Gerald Cleaver entered the fray, furiously trading cross rhythms, the complete sound brought to mind the landmark playing of Chick Corea’s trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes in its interactivity. Herman also proved he could compete with the likes of the Bad Plus in reinterpreting pop tunes, the highlight being the mysterious bent-string introduction to a truly scintillating version of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’!

While Belgian pianist Jef Neve’s trio was not as intense an experience as Herman’s, they earned the respect of the audience with Neve’s hypnotic compositions and strong melodic sense. With much of the material based around simple ostinatos reminiscent of EST, Neve injected the compositions with life through the dynamic interplay with drummer Teun Verbuggen and bassist Peter Verbist.
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Like Herman, Neve built the intensity throughout his solos, though his approach was much more arpeggio-based, bringing out the harmonies in a torrent of notes while a strong, poignant melodies emerged above the fray. While his approach was less immediately striking than Herman’s, the overall effect after he had completed a solo was devastating. The highlight of the set was probably ‘Nothing but a Casablanca Turtle’, where the group’s winning combination of hypnotic power, melodic sophistication and beautiful classicism shined at its brightest.

Overall, the concert demonstrated that the piano trio is as fertile a genre as ever, and both groups proved it well.

Mark Trounson