Mr Pete Billington’s comprehensive survey of the greatest jazz pianists in history informed his choice of repertoire for the last professional Concert Series event of the 2021-22 season; a stunning jazz trio concert also featuring Sophie Alloway on drums and Sam Burgess on bass.
They each have hugely impressive careers in various bands, are regulars at Ronnie Scott’s, and have variously supported a range of world-famous artists, but their palpable joy in coming together as a trio shone through; Sophie Alloway’s infectiously easy drumming catching the eye particularly. Pete Billington teaches jazz piano at Cranleigh, and a large number of students took the opportunity to observe him at close quarters. They saw a jazz pianist in full command of his instrument (he has a hugely virtuosic technique), and a vivid imagination at work in each of the works they performed. Mr Billington showcased works by, amongst others, Lil’ Hardin, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Abdullah Ibrahim, Chick Corea, Thelonius Monk, and Herbie Hancock. In each case he, and the trio as a whole, were aware of the heritage and styles they were celebrating, but also infused their performances with originality and freshness.
With each number, the musical fingerprints of the composer were probed, explored and highlighted; from the Gospel-infused Hymn to Freedom by Oscar Peterson to Abdullah Ibrahim’s spiritual echoes of apartheid-era South African jazz in Water from an Ancient Well. The lyricism of Bill Evans, Cuban rhythms of Chick Corea, and gorgeous subtle harmonies of Thelonius Monk were all presented authentically, but then given free rein to be taken on a flight of fancy by this most inventive of trios.
Here was jazz in its purest form; three top-quality musicians sparking off each other, and paying homage to the greatest jazz pianists in history. A wonderful end to the year.