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Spike Wells, Gwilym Simcock, Malcolm Creese

CD Reviews: October 22, 2007

Given its often spiritual nature, it's not surprising to find men of the cloth with a deep love of music. Still, finding priests who are talented jazz musicians is a greater challenge, but in the case of British drummer Spike Wells the order of events is important. Ordained as a priest in 1996, Wells began his professional life in the 1960s, playing with artists including iconic saxophonists Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. He's a fine and flexible player whose Reverence is the first album bearing his name on the marquis, but the company he keeps is equally significant.

Gwilym Simcock has, in the space of a few short years, emerged as the most significant young pianist on the British scene. Starting life as a classical pianist, he's come to jazz only recently. Still, in the space of a few short years - still in his early twenties - he's racked up a remarkable list of accomplishments. He played on saxophonist Tim Garland's ambitious If The Sea Replied (Sirocco, 2005), and with Garland and bassist Malcolm Creese in Acoustic Triangle, whose Resonance (Audio-B, 2005) is a sublime piece of chamber jazz. He's also a member, with Garland, of veteran drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks. Combining a voraciously encyclopaedic talent as a player with increasing significance as a writer, it's not too early to suggest he's only at the beginning of a long and fruitful career.

Creese is a bassist who may not dominate, but whose presence is always felt. Like Scott Colley, he has the remarkable ability to find precisely the right note, the right phrase, for every moment; and like Charlie Haden, he possesses a deep, woody tone that fills out this trio beautifully.

Reverence is largely standards-based, but one that distinguishes itself through unexpected takes of familiar songs, and interplay that allows for considerable interpretive freedom throughout. "My Funny Valentine" begins uncharacteristically with a drum solo, and one that proves Wells to be a melodic and narrative-focused soloist. But it's when Creese and Simcock enter at a fast clip that this classic ballad takes on new life. A dark take on "You Don't Know What Love Is" is more conventional in tempo, but Simcock's economy, Creese's dual role as time-keeper and melodist, and Wells' elastic time approach make it a dark-hued highlight.

Simcock's largely rubato "And Then She Was Gone" combines romantic classicism with moments of vivid drama, and a definitive solo from Creese that's all the more for its stark simplicity. The entire album possesses a warmth and presence that's become a signature for Creese's audiophile Audio-B label.

While the occasional religious reference pops up, most notably on the positively hymnal "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" that closes the disc, the Reverence of the title is more broad-scoped than any specific denomination. It's a compellingly spiritual disc that can be appreciated by any who view music as a transcendent experience.

John Kelman

THE IRISH TIMES - 15th September 2007

Led by Wells on drums, with Creese on bass and Simcock on piano, this is a superbly democratic unit, with the gifted young Simcock up front and in focus. He's harmonically well endowed, and his lines are so personal, his rhythmic control so flexible, that he can go anywhere, confident of validation in the pliant, subtle, constantly surprising interaction of the group. It's fresh, flowing and full of the unexpected, relying almost exclusively on a diet of standards. If the ingredients are conventional, however, the trio prepares and cooks them in its own way. Just to experience how I Hear a Rhapsody is morphed into Alone Together is rather special, but so is what they do with Emily, You Don't Know What Love Is, or the spacey, euphoric groove they strike on My One and Only Love. Creativity isn't just a question of style or breaking boundaries.

Ray Comiskey

EVENING STANDARD / - 31st August 2007

Spike Wells, back from retirement after playing drums with a whole galaxy of British and American stars, describes Gwilym Simcock as the best pianist he has ever worked with. He's now a priest, while Simcock and bassist-producer Creese are former choristers. All this may explain the album title, but devotion to jazz is their more likely key. Simcock is certainly on message. Young, eclectic and classically schooled, he plays with rare jazz feeling, exploring strong standards (I Hear a Rhapsody) and shapely originals (And Then She Was Gone) with elements of Bill Evans's delicacy, Herbie Hancock's momentum and Keith Jarrett's spontaneity. His best may be yet to come but everything he needs is already at his fingertips.

Jack Massarik

The Scotsman - 26th August 2007

Despite gaining an initial reputation as the Devil's music, jazz has always had a strong flow of spirituality running through it. Few have taken the process quite as far as becoming ordained as a priest, as drummer Spike Wells did in 1995. Wells has always been a sensitive and swinging drummer with a reputation for being a bit of a perfectionist, and this trio must have satisfied that craving. The material may be made up of familiar standards, but their approach is freshly minted. All three receive equal billing, and with sound musical justification. Pianist Gwilym Simcock, one of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene, and the impeccable Malcolm Creese on bass are equal partners in shaping the intricate, refined creative interplay that makes this disc such a pleasure.

Kenny Mathieson

Vortex Web Site - July 2007

Leader/drummer Spike Wells traces his love affair with the piano trio to his first exposure to the likes of Hampton Hawes and Wynton Kelly in the 1950s and 1960s, but he also namechecks Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Enrico Pieranunzi and Brad Mehldau before lavishing praise on his partner on this recording, Gwilym Simcock, whom he calls 'the best pianist I have ever played with', and goes on: 'I suspect in the end he will be regarded as the greatest pianist this country has ever produced.' Praise indeed, but even brief exposure to Simcock's constantly inventive contributions to the standards on this album - a lightly tripping 'Falling in Love with Love', an increasingly adventurous exploration of 'Secret Love', a mesmeric, mellifluous visit to 'You Don't Know What Love is', a stunning 'My Funny Valentine' - explains his enthusiasm. Like numerous contemporary pianists (Mehldau himself, Lynne Arriale chief among them), Simcock infuses a perfectly honed 'classical' technique with 'jazz' sensibility (the need for inverted commas a sign of how successful they've been in seamlessly combining the two). There are few listening experiences as rewarding and pleasurable as following a lively musical mind seeing how far it can stretch the rhythmic and melodic limits of a chord sequence; Simcock delights and surprises on every cut of this excellent album, richly fulfilling the promise discernible in his extraordinary collaboration with Lee Konitz in Cheltenham a year or so ago. Wells himself is at the heart of the group sound, nudging, urging, stoking the trio's fire; bassist Malcolm Creese is his customary unselfish, sonorous, faultless self, but it is Simcock who attracts and holds the attention throughout a fine (72-minute) recording. Recommended.

Chris Parker


I can enthusiastically recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys the art of the jazz piano trio. As Spike himself says, "The piano trio has to be one of the most creative combinations in jazz." The trio comprises Spike on drums, pianist Gwilym Simcock - an outstanding young musician who recently won the 'Musician of the Year' award at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and Malcolm Creese, one of the finest double bass players on the jazz scene. These three excellent musicians meld together superbly on a selection of well-known standard tunes such as `Secret Love', 'My Funny Valentine' and 'My One And Only Love'. There is also an exquisite ballad by Gwilym called 'And Then She Was Gone', and a great surprise, a jazz version of the hymn 'Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind' which, contrary to what you might expect, lends itself perfectly to a serene and reverent jazz interpretation.

Peter Morris

THE OBSERVER 19th August 2007

The band's name may sound like a firm of solicitors, but Spike Wells, Gwilym Simcock and Malcolm Creese are, respectively, among the finest drummers, pianists and bassists in contemporary British jazz. In fact, on the evidence of these 11 tracks, the term 'jazz' itself may be a bit limiting. That is certainly the case with their extraordinary, seven-minute exploration of 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind', which takes the old hymn into realms of pure collective imagination. Elsewhere they do much the same thing with standard songs and a couple of their own pieces. Their ability to think and feel as one is quite uncanny.

Dave Gelly


An interesting album for a number of reasons. First, it features drummer Spike Wells who, having played with Tubby Hayes in the 1960s and several visiting American notables at Ronnie Scott's, took up law and became a solicitor and then, in 1998, was ordained as a priest and has subsequently been quietly re-engaging with the UK jazz scene. Secondly, it features Gwilym Simcock playing standards, something of a rarity these days since he prefers to perform original material. And finally, Malcolm Creese provides a reminder of what an impressive bassist he can be.

They have chosen a repertoire of standards (plus two originals and one hymn chosen by Simcock, 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind') which has, over the generations, become somewhat over codified, for example, on 2005's Joyous Encounter, Joe Lovano and Hank Jones struggled manfully to successfully decant old wine into new bottles. And one is bound to ask whether the world needs another 'My Funny Valentine', 'I Hear a Rhapsody' or 'Falling In Love With Love'?

But in fairness, Simcock does provide a fresh insight into such well known material by virtue of an approach to the piano that is less determined by jazz methodology, more to his classical training. His touch and a more rhapsodic approach than is customary in jazz help recast these tunes in a new light - 'You Don't Know What Love Is', 'Secret Love' - in an album that gradually grows and grows on you.

Stuart Nicholson

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