What’s that i hear you say? Jazz? On Progmeister.com? Well, not exactly. I make no secret of being a huge fan of Paul Birchall and the music he brought to us via the brilliant Combination Head who’s albums still rank highly as some of my favourite Prog albums. Having seen Paul perform on other occasions outside of the Combination Head camp, once with Heather Small and the other with the uber talented Snake Davis it was a must that i made the journey South of the region to check out The Paul Birchall Trio. Accompanied by Simon Goulding who is without doubt one of the most talented bass players i have yet to see in a live setting and a face new to me Steve Gilbert on drums.
Stokesley Town Hall is a great place to attend any musical event. It has a very cosy atmosphere and supports a large village feel to the venue. I managed to get a few words with Paul before the band start playing, though i was still unsure what to expect. A promising start with Steely Dan’s Pixeleen grabbed my attention from the outset. The omission of any vocals throughout the whole of the set firmly put the band in the jazz category and the arrangements of some pieces were simply wonderful. Brubeck+ threw the band headlong into the jazz master’s Rondo ala Turk with some powerful inflections fleshing out this well known jazz classic. Elsewhere in the set Steely Dan numbers like Black Cow (played in a strictly come dancing style) and the seminal Babylon Sisters totally blew me away.
Being as i am a big fan of jazz fusion it was great to hear pieces like Weather Report’s Palladium getting the Birchall treatment as well as Stevie Wonder’s Contusion which may have been a little too erratic in nature for some of the older members of the audience but i simply lapped it up. It was the original music from the trio’s Magpie album notably Walking Day, St Lawrence and the title piece Magpie that i thought were very enjoyable arrangements indeed and the album will be well worth checking out and will soon be available to buy. (watch this space) Also included in the set was Familia the title track from Simon Goulding’s solo album which took the band into Level 42 territory. I was absolutely spellbound. Simon and drummer Steve Gilbert have an amazing rythmic chemistry and together with Paul Birchall’s piano chops make for an electric performance.
Slowing the pace for a while the band performed Forbidden Colours from the soundtrack Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. This really did show the diversity of the band and the careful thought given to the selection of materiel which ultimately included something for everyone. It has become evident that Paul Birchall is very much at home playing Stokesley Town Hall and wears the hall like a comfortable coat. Finishing the set with an encore of message In A Bottle by The Police the band returned triumphantly their dressing room having played a full and varied set. Joining them for a chat Paul informed me that he wasn’t happy with his performance. Given the extremely high quality of all three of the musicians Paul’s fears were totally unnecessary as his playing was as natural as his candour and interfacing with his audience via his great sense of humour. If like myself you enjoy jazz fusion and watching a tightly knit band then an evening with The Paul Birchall Trio is a must. As much as i enjoy the pomp and circumstance of large musical productions, sometimes i just want to sit in a club with a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy the fluidity of a band just playing for the hell of it and that is exactly what i was given by The Paul Birchall Trio in StokesleyTown Hall. Absolutely Toppa.