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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Thinking Allowed

DePaean DPNCD 003

1. Two-part Invention in A minor (Bach)
2. Choral in A minor (Cesar Franck)
3. Theme from Sonata in A major (Mozart)
4. Prelude No. 10 in E minor (Bach)
5. Fugue No. 10 in E minor (Bach)
6. Arietta Op. 12 No. 1 (Grieg)
7. Sonata in D minor (Scarlatti)
8. Adagio from Sonata in A minor (Vivaldi)
9. St. Patrick (Ancient Irish Hymn melody)
10. Sonatine 3rd Movement (Ravel)
11. Passepied (Debussy)
12. Two-part Invention in A minor (Bach) – Take 2
David Rees-Williams – Piano, Hammond RT3, keyboards
Neil Francis – Fretless electric bass
Phil Laslett – Drums

Jacques Loussier may have done it first but David Rees-Williams does it better. Loussier popularised the idea of playing jazz versions of classical pieces – starting with Bach and then moving on to other composers. But in fact there has been a long tradition of "Jazzing the Classics", going back at least to the 1930s with such things as Tommy Dorsey’s Song of India (thanks to Rimsky-Korsakov) and John Kirby’s version of Grieg’s Anitra’s Dance.

In fact David Rees-Williams is more respectful of his material than some of those earlier essays in jazzing the classics. David doesn’t subject them to "jazzing up" but he uses them as vehicles for jazz improvisation which tries to maintain the spirit of each composer. I was first alerted to the David Rees-Williams Trio by his previous album Time Scape, which included a particularly fine reading of Stanford’s beautiful Magnificat in G.

On this new CD, David transmutes a dozen classical pieces, generally stating the theme before launching into improvisation with a jazz rhythm, aided by the sterling work of bassist Neil Francis and drummer Phil Laslett. David’s excursions are mostly more adventurous than Jacques Loussier’s. He plays the first Bach piece fairly straight but the Cesar Franck Choral allows the drummer to really let rip at an exhilarating tempo. This track also introduces David playing the Hammond organ as well as the piano – and on several tracks he overdubs organ or other keyboards which add to the palette of sounds but sometimes diminish the delicacy of the performances. In some ways I preferred the simple clarity of the previous album, which just used the piano trio.

However, this trio continually presents us with startlingly new perspectives on old compositions, without making fun of the composers. They capture the romanticism of Grieg as well as the implicit lyricism of Bach and the playfulness of Mozart (in the theme from his Sonata in A major, which shifts between three-four and four-four). And they make Debussy’s Passepied a shuffling Latin-American delight, with swing extemporization in the middle.

These three fine musicians are based in Canterbury, Kent, but it is to be hoped that this CD and their previous albums will make them much more widely known. They certainly deserve it.

Tony Augarde


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