London JF: Wasilewski, Bollani, Solal

John Adcock reviews the Marcin Wasilewski trio and the Stefano Bollani and Martial Solal duo at the Barbican, 16 November 2011

Photography © John Watson/

Marcin WasilewskiA piano masterclass unfolded at the Barbican last night as part of this year's London Jazz Festival. First up, Marcin Wasilewski and his trio performed selected nuggets from their latest ECM release, Faithful. Wasilewski's deft, subtle melodies and gentle swing translated well from studio to stage, demonstrating that this is indeed one of the finest, most understated trios working in jazz at the moment.

Watching Wasilewski (pictured right) hunched over the piano, it seemed the sheer physicality of his style was occasionally at odds with the beautifully restrained sounds that he creates, so it was fascinating to see his technique in action. Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass) provided almost telepathic accompaniment throughout the set, whilst Michal Miskiewicz coaxed gentle, pulsing bursts of rhythm from his compact, discreet drumming. The occasional solos here were never of the grandstanding variety, and the audience seemed content to listen as the music unfolded and developed, rather than spoil the spell with intrusive applause. An entirely appropriate response.

It would be nice to see this fantastic trio headline at future events and play for a little longer, such is the quality they bring to their performances. They deserve longer in the spotlight as the set finished way too soon for my liking at just under an hour.

If ever a man looked at one with the piano, it's Stefano Bollani. He kicked off the second half with some dazzling solo work – including a ferociously fast and cheeky rendition of Tico Tico, before being joined by French legend Martial Solal for a series of intricate and satisfying duets. Solal was a study in quiet understatement, with Bollani extrovertly plucking strings and using the woodwork to provide rhythm accompaniment to some of the numbers.

Hitting their stride, there were some lovely exchanges in their treatments of Sweet Georgia Brown and Ellington’s Take The A Train to enjoy as the set developed. They swapped pianos, did a few four-handed numbers on one keyboard, and generally seemed happy in one another's company, which added to the sense of warmth and enjoyment that emanated from the stage.

Hearing both men play was spellbinding; but just watching Bollani at work was absolutely mesmerising.

Stefano Bollani and Martial Solal: spellbinding
Bollani, Solal

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