LJF 2015: McCormack and Yarde

Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde, plus guests, impress John Watson with inspired duo work and a first for the Pizza Express Jazz Club

The duo of pianist Andrew McCormack and saxophonist Jason Yarde quickly established a well-deserved reputation for high-level, creative improvising. Several albums later, including one with the addition of strings, McCormack and Yarde continue to develop their extraordinary empathy in a repertoire which calls on a very wide range of influences, from contemporary classical to world music.

Their duet work is inspired, but their appearance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club as part of the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival was considerably enhanced by the addition of two special guests, the virtuoso violinist Thomas Gould (pictured right) and percussionist Richard Olatunde Baker.

They started their lunchtime performance on Sunday, 15 November with a duet, Dark To Light, composed by the saxophonist, with Yarde pointing the bell of his soprano directly into the soundboard of the club’s grand piano, creating gorgeously rich echoes as well as stimulating sympathetic resonances from the strings, as McCormack produced rich arpeggios and extended chords from the keyboard. Then Gould and Baker joined them on stage to lift the performance to an even higher level, with the violinist creating captivating responses to Yarde’s immaculate improvising on soprano.

Highlights included McCormack’s compositions Antibes and Nice Cup Of Tea, and Yarde’s Ob’s First Adventure. But an unforgettable performance came at the opening of the second set: the modern minimalist classical piece Fratres, by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, played as a duet by Gould and McCormack, with the violinist feathering the most delicate harmonics, powerfully evoking the full melancholy of this extraordinary piece. Truly, a surprising and very welcome choice of marvellously moving repertoire . . . and you can bet it was a first at the Pizza Express Jazz Club.

Photo by John Watson

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