© The Financial Times Ltd 2016
FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
The Financial Times and its journalism are subject to a self-regulation regime under the FT Editorial Code of Practice.
October 24, 2013 5:34 pm
The Impossible Gentlemen are a left-leaning, high-octane US/UK jazz quartet, formed in 2010 and with a recently released second CD under their belt. Their recordings are a tightly argued blend of contrasting lead voices and American rhythmic nous – Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum were on bass and drums – but rival projects have made live appearances decidedly thin on the ground.
This gig, the first of a four-night residency, came after a concentrated 10-date UK tour, and they hit the ground running, tight as a glove and brimful of confidence. A splat from Nussbaum’s snare and a swish of fast brush-driven swing cued the slight, somewhat jolly motif of “Modern Day Heroes”. But it came with a tricky structure and dense harmonies and evolved into an aggressive, phrase-swapping trade between Gwilym Simcock’s articulate, classically trained piano and Mike Walker’s blues-edged, rhythmically astute guitar.
Simcock’s “Just to See You” followed, a haunting warm-hearted reverie with a liquid bass solo from American stand-in Steve Rodby; then came the gear-shifting complexities of “You Won’t be Around to See It”, based on the harmonies of “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”. It began with the soft-shoe beats and syncopated lines of 1950s film noir – Walker’s resonant single notes conjuring naked light-bulbs in seedy bedsits – then toughened into rock, sped up, swung hard, then stopped dead.
Most compositions similarly changed tempo and all had tricks up their sleeves – a two-bar drum break, a short burst of guitar or a briefly added texture. And Walker’s tunes had a particularly strong sense of time and place. The slightly surreal, tango-inflected “Wallenda’s Last Stand” was inspired by the retiring walk of a long established high-wire artist – a side wind, we were told, blew him to his death. And the second set’s “Clockmaker”, a near-abstract collage of ticks and clacks, was for a close friend’s father who retired and made clocks.
Both sets ended with Walker on a controlled-fury high, the first over broken-beat funk, the second over a slow-burning blues in compound time. They stuck to the blues for their encore, a bustling and embellished Simcock tribute to composer Samuel Barber.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.