When I reviewed John Law’s Three Leaps of the Gazelle earlier this year I really hoped I could see him live so I could thank him for his beautiful music. So it was a no-brainer to book to see him, even in a festival where we were faced with agonising choices, where so many acts clashed in the schedule. John’s performance at the London Jazz Festival goes down as one of my highlights of the festival. He joked that he had performed at the Purcell Room, now the QEH, would it be the Royal Festival Hall next? Well, why not? He has a stellar trio with Asaf Sirkis on percussion and Yuri Goloubev on bass. Yuri was the surprise to me – his diffident seated stance disguising absolutely extraordinary command of his bass, particularly in Three Part Invention and Finger on the Pulse.
The trio played compositions from Three Leaps of the Gazelle but deepened them with more obvious and daring electronics, making the most of the perfect piano and the vast space. So Insistence which starts gently with crickets (the insect) quickly became darker and sinister. It is easy to take John’s wonderful playing for granted, the tunes flow so naturally, the colours and pace are so varied, it looks effortless. Three Part Invention allowed Asaf to play full blast with a stunning solo. This was a lovely contrast to his earlier delicate brushwork sounding like a small animal running in the snow in Counting Snowflakes. By now the full house was gripped, the twiddly electronics, the piano like an irregularly dripping tap, the magical sounds of the glockenspiel and the beautiful tune had us all remembering childhood Christmases when we did indeed watch individual snowflakes. And it wasn’t only the audience who were moved – several times Asaf or John waved a hand at Yuri as if to say ” Oh my goodness, just listen to this guy tonight, he is inspired”. And yes, he was, they all were. The electronics really made it – they weren’t just another extraordinary piano trio (we had that with Brad Mehldau earlier in the week), they were being daring, and it paid off. If the audience had just come to see Egberto Gismondi then they came away with having seen an amazing set from John.
I have a feeling that Three Leaps of the Gazelle is going to be in my top 5 albums of this year and this live performance convinces me of this. This was a gig where I would have welcomed a second set.