As winter made an unexpected and unwarranted return to Aberdeenshire it was nice to be transported to different vistas, contrasting moods and perhaps even warmer climes. There is something immediate about the ‘Gypsy Jazz’ that was on offer for the good people of Inverurie at the Acorn Centre, with images and reminiscences of a different age, redolent of long summers, lazy afternoons, and a sepia-tinged view of the world, untroubled by global events and the return of winter. This balm for the soul was of course provided by the Tim Kliphuis Trio, returning triumphantly to the Garioch for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was edifying to see such a large audience for the trio, who were hanging on every slide and sigh from Kliphuis’s evocative violin, all enveloped by the wonderful acoustic of Inverurie’s finest chamber music venue. The programme seamlessly blended 1920s and 30s violin jazz (of the sort you may associate with the great Stephane Grappelli) with original compositions by the trio in a concert in which time seemed to simultaneously stand still and disappear mysteriously quickly. Whether they were performing jazz standards or their genre-defying compositions the level of technical and expressive virtuosity was incredible, not just the stratospheric violin playing of Kliphuis, but the intense musicianship of guitarist Nigel Clark and bassist Roy Percy. The interplay between the musicians was almost telepathic and the love and respect from the trio towards the music of their forebears was evident from the outset.
The centrepiece of the concert was sections of one of the trio’s most recent albums, The Five Elements written and recorded during the pandemic in 2020 and now being toured around the world to great acclaim. Kliphuis’s own climate change credentials were on offer during his interesting introductions to the different movements, the fact that the trio will be performing sections at a climate change conference at the United Nations later this year only highlights this further. The Five Elements blends the warmth and vigour of their jazz with more contemporary and diverse influences – American minimalism, popular styles and traditional forms all bubbling away in the creative melting pot. Although their original compositions stray far from Django and Grappelli, there is always a flavour of this jazz underpinning even the most questioning and introspective moments of the suite. Like the jazz on which they ply their trade, pieces such as The Five Elements have an immediacy and warmth that make them instantly attractive to listeners and concert goers.
The concert also included movements from their previous collaborations, Reflecting the Seasons and Concertos, where sections of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos are reimagined, recontextualised and filtered through the trio’s febrile creativity and incredible musicianship. Perhaps it was in these pieces where guitarist and bassist really had a chance to shine with some incredibly intricate and filigree parts suddenly shining brighter than the rest, like a light gleaming on some hitherto unknown, detailed artistry. Every piece, every improvisation and every gesture were appreciated by the audience, and it was no surprise that a sun-drenched encore rewarded this grateful audience. So, we return to winter, but perhaps not wintriness, with a warmth provided by this wonderful concert and this transformative and transportive music.
©Phillip A Cooke