Conversation - Geoff Simkins Trio
I enjoy making music as part of a small group. The informal, improvised interplay of the duo, trio or quartet is where I feel most at ease (I regard a sextet as a dangerously large crowd) and since the mid 1980's two of the musicians with whom I've worked
most, and made some of my best music, have been Dave Cliff and Simon Woolf. Although we've recorded together many times in a variety of settings this is the first time as the trio. My simple plan for this C.D. was to select a dozen or so tunes that would b
e interesting and challenging, book a studio, and record a days worth of music. Some of the material was already part of our repertoire but several tunes were new, and apart from a run-through the day before the recording, the music was to be as spontaneou
s as possible. As it happened, even some of these last minute arrangements changed during the session. I knew that Dave and Simon would play beautifully but, perhaps above all, I hoped that this recording would capture the real musical empathy that I feel
the three of us have developed over the years, a quality that people who've heard the trio at gigs have often enthused about. (Here I wanted to avoid the dreaded phrase "critically acclaimed" which is usually a euphemism for your mum saying "Yes, that's ve
ry nice dear"). A friend of mine, the gifted musician and teacher Pete Churchill put it well when he said that listeners to this sort of small group jazz might consider themselves to be eavesdropping on what is hopefully an intelligent and stimulating conv
ersation between friends.
It's twenty three years since I first met, and worked with, Dave and Simon. In the summer of 1985 somebody asked if I'd provide a duo to play "some background jazz" for the opening of a gallery in Cork Street W1. I called Dave Cliff, a guitarist that I the
n only knew by reputation; He agreed to do the gig and we got on, as they say, famously although the punters were considerably more restrained in their appreciation. Indeed, as Dave later succinctly put it, "They actually clambered over us to get at the ar
A few weeks after that collision with the metropolitan art world Dave and I were working together again, this time as part of a quintet organised by that excellent drummer Dave Wickins. The line-up was completed by Simon (whose strong, melodic playing was
immediately impressive) and tenor saxophonist Chas Burchell, a terrific but badly underrated improviser.
The music was spirited and inventive and Chas called me shortly afterwards to suggest that we should keep the group together and play some of the Konitz/Marsh repertoire. Sadly Chas passed away a few months later and we only got the chance to play together
on a very few occasions but the high regard with which he's remembered is marked by the inclusion of Simon's ballad "Chas" on this album.
Smog Eyes and Featherbed are two interesting lines (based on standards) written by another underrated musician, the saxophonist Ted Brown, a respected member of the group of improvisers who were influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the teaching and
playing of Lennie Tristano. Some years ago I made something of an attempt to set up a few gigs in the U.K for a band featuring Ted Brown and me but as the first few venues that I called hadn't really heard of either of us, enterprise quickly gave way to en
nui and I went back to watching Racing from Market Rasen on the box.
The Moon and the Rabbit is a tune in 3/4 that I wrote for my partner Avril. The story that connects the title and her name is complicated and involves a translation from Japanese, and as this is starting to lurch towards Pseuds Corner you'll have to ask me
to explain when you see me. The other waltz on the album is Waltz New, a line written by one of my heroes, guitarist Jim Hall. It's always seemed to me that Hall, like Lee Konitz, constructs solos in which nothing is superfluous or gratuitous, a sort of d
istilled improvisation. It's this approach to playing the music that I've struggled for so many years to master.
Two of the perennial challenges for improvisers are included. Passport is one of Charlie Parker's many lines on "I got Rhythm" and not heard as often as some. Cork 'n Bib, the final track, is a typically personal take on the blues by Lee Konitz and as we o
ften use it as a sign-off theme it seemed appropriate to close the album with it.
John Lewis' evocative Django is a great composition, for me the test being to discover melodic paths through what can be quite a proscriptive harmonic sequence. The same might be said of Falling Grace, a beautiful and haunting theme by Steve Swallow which
I felt would suit being played as a gentle Bossa Nova.
The Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda dedicated his lovely and unusual Ballad for Bernt to the saxophonist Bernt Rosengren and the tune appears as part of the soundtrack to the 1962 movie "Knife in the Water".
I'm Getting Sentimental over You is the Ned Washington/George Bassman song written in 1932 and always associated with Tommy Dorsey. It seems to me to exemplify the qualities of so many of the better standards, a durable melody and a chord sequence mallea
ble enough to occupy the inquiring improviser.
I'd like to thank Dave and Simon for their music and friendship, Nick at whose Porcupine Studio we made this recording and who certainly contributed to the relaxed atmosphere that day, the estimable Ant for agreeing to issue it on his Symbol label, and of
course my partner Avril for her unfailing encouragement.
Last, and certainly not least, I hope you enjoy the music.
Carry on eavesdropping.