Colston Hall Foyer, Friday 11 September
There’s a pleasing ambiguity when you talk of a musician ‘playing’ and though at times the world of jazz can be rightly considered unduly serious (to the point of being up itself) when it gets playful it’s often at its most exhilarating. So when pianist Elliot Galvin opened his gig with a tinkling toy piano it boded well and, indeed, some 60 minutes later we’d all had an hour of real musical fun.
That first tune – Ism – quickly developed into a glorious mesh of cross-rhythms with Simon Roth’s drums before locking into Tom McRedie’s full-toned bass and launching a whoosh of breakbeat groove before the grown-up piano settled it down. This genre-hopping is very much Galvin’s style, switchbacking your expectations and refreshing them. Thus a tune simply called Blues began with a brisk boogie-woogie that careered to a halt, winding down as if someone pulled the plug out, settled into a sleazier flow and then faded into bits and pieces before a semi-classical piano part asserted itself. That stately mood itself began to slip into jazziness and then the boogie-woogie returned for a final breakdown.
In the course of the set Galvin deployed a Stylophone, the workings of a music box and a specially adapted microtonal melodica as well as the toy piano but none of these were wasted gimmicks, each playing a proper musical role in the pieces they featured. Behind the drum kit, Roth had some kind of buzzing gizmo and a glockenspiel that made its ethereal contribution to an otherwise unrecognisable Mac The Knife, a portentously slow groove on piano and bass thickening as Galvin tightened the harmonies of his heavy chords, somehow slipping references to Rhapsody In Blue into this dark piece. For Punch and Judy, a new tune, an old cassette player appeared and Galvin fast forwarded through gabbling speech – was that the way to do it? – before a kind of subverted Montuno piano led into a jauntily sinister mood. That piece ended with one of those games where each tried to catch the other out for a final chord, but they were too good and it lasted quite a while.
But any mucking about only worked because the three players were excellent and the musical ideas were as sound as they were original. For all that Galvin has not long graduated from Trinity Laban College his ideas are as seriously sophisticated as they are enjoyable to hear worked out on stage and it is highly likely this trio will be a star turn at 2016’s major jazz festivals. Because they’re worth it!