Simcock, Garland, Sirkis ‘Lighthouse’ (ACT) 4/5

British pianist Gwilym Simcock is one of a growing roster of top new pianists to have emerged in Europe and the States on the ACT label and his debut for ACT ‘Good days at Schloss Elmau’ was simply one of the best piano recordings of recent years. Now he finds himself in a fascinating trio format with long-time Chick Corea band member and reedist Tim Garland and drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis. This, though, is a trio album with a difference. There is no brass and various celtic influences permeate the recording with some lovely folk-inspired melodies into the mix. This is illustrated by ‘Above the sun’ which has a flamenco undercurrent and is in part a response to a previous composition ‘Bajo del sol’ (’Under the sun’) from Simcock. One of the most convincing and lyrical numbers is ‘The wind on the water’ with stunning soprano saxophone from Garland and subtle percussive tones from Sirkis. Another piece ‘Wax lyrical’ is in fact a tribute to UK saxophonist and band leader Stan Sulzman, still active on the scene, and here Simcock’s rolling percussive delivery on the piano combines beautifully with Garland once again on soprano. This is really a duet between the two and recalls Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron’s memorable studio (and live) encounters. Another homage comes in the form of ‘Devilled’ which is destined on this occasion for King Crismon and Earthworks drummer Bill Bruford fro whom both Garland and Simcokc played under before Bruford retired. After a frenetic opening, the music calms down somewhat with fine percussive work from Sirkis on what sounds like an African calabash instrument. With the reposing ‘Tawel nawr’ is another opportunity to hear pianist and saxophonist duet and when it sounds this good, they really ought to devote a whole album at some stage to their dual talents. The lighthouse by the way referred to in the title is the one situated on the north-east English coastline near Whitley Bay.

Tim Stenhouse