David Rees-Williams Trio
Arrangements of JS Bach, D. Scarlatti and more
To include arrangements of JS Bach & D. Scarlatti from the trios' latest release "Classically Reminded" (Champs Hill Records)
To quote from the name of a popular piano composition from the1940`s "Bach Goes to Town" written by Alec Templeton, He certainly" went to town" when the" David Rees-Williams Trio" visited us on Sunday afternoon 19th November. Performing in the style of the famous French" Jacques Loussier Trio" these three artists, David Rees-Williams piano, Neil Francis bass guitar, and Phil Laslett percussion, gave an audience of over fifty people an afternoon of brilliantly syncopated improvisations on Baroque music brought up to date for the 21st century.
Predominately piano, with backing from bass and drums, after an impressive flamboyant introduction on the piano, the content was essentially based upon works by J.S.Bach,and Dominico Scarlatti who shared the same birth date as the former, with forays into Purcell and Handel. It was amazing to hear some of these 17th century works take on a completely new perspective when jazzed up and embellished with inspired variations, some of which were played at lightening speed such as the Gigue from Bach`s fifth French Suite, the D Major Prelude No.5 amongst others from Book One of the Forty Eight, and some Scarlatti Sonatas.
Perhaps more importantly, the beauty of some of the slower movements was greatly enhanced thanks to the superb cantabile tone that David was able to produce when not playing at break neck speed. This was particularly apparent in the Loure from the same French Suite, in" Music for a While" by Henry Purcell, and the sublime Bach B flat major Two Part Invention where the Bass guitar was given a spot by himself to great effect. Maybe it would have been nice to have heard more of the solo abilities of the accompanying musicians apart from their undoubted abilities in synchronising back up.
To wind up this concert of masterly improvisation, an ability for which the virtuosos of old were famous, but not like this! the Trio launched into a bravura "Handelian" extravaganza which brought excited acclaim from the audience who insisted on more, and as an encore another Bach Two Part Invention, No.13 in A Minor, again played in a brilliant contemporary fashion, finally concluded this extraordinary "gig".
David Rees-Williams began his musical career as a chorister at New College Oxford. The rich variety of musical styles performed by choir and organ were to make strong and lasting impressions. From there he won the top music scholarship to Cranleigh School where he studied piano, oboe and organ. He progressed to The Royal College of Music in 1979 and graduated from there with a B.Mus (Hons) in 1981. While still a student, he held the post of organist at the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Paddington.
The David Rees-Williams Trio was formed in 1988 featuring Neil Francis on bass guitar and Phil Laslett on drums alongside David. Based in and around Canterbury, Kent, they have performed over the years in a diverse selection of concerts in festivals and events in the UK, Europe and USA. They specialize in a programme that unites the best of classical and jazz. They first caught the imagination of Radio 3 listeners when David’s arrangement of Purcell’s When I am Laid in Earth from their first, privately recorded album Classically Minded, was played by Sean Rafferty on In Tune in the summer of 2001. The response to this was described as “extraordinary”, with the producer of the programme being inundated with enquiries about how to obtain a copy of the recording. This led to the trio being invited to record a disc for the BBC on their new Late Junction label.
The resulting Hidden Colours was released in May 2002, featuring David’s arrangements of Purcell, Bach, Grieg, Faure, Franck, Debussy and Ravel. It received 4-star reviews in The Times and The Independent On Sunday and shortly after its release, was the Editor’s Choice in HMV Choice Magazine. It then went on to become No2 of HMV’s 10 Best Classical discs of 2002. It was also rated best of its genre by The Financial times in its end of year album review of world music for 2002.
In September 2004, Time Scape was released, featuring arrangements of works by Ravel, Bach, Chopin, Stanford, Purcell, Buxtehude, Elgar, Warlock and Bossi. It too received 4-star reviews in The Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday and Jazzwise magazine. It was also named as one of the top ten CDs of 2004 by Clive Davis in The Sunday Times Culture magazine in December 2004.
Thinking Allowed was released in February 2007 and was featured regularly on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM’s new station at the time, “The Jazz”. It was widely and unanimously acclaimed as one of the outstanding albums of its genre by critics such as Guy Dammann (Guardian) who jested with the comment “Franckly Stunning”, and Clive Davis (Sunday Times). The arrangements had now developed a more progressive feel, featuring added Hammond Organ. They also included works by Cesar Franck, Scarlatti, Mozart and Debussy. /p>
Back from Before followed in 2010, again receiving similar reviews including an enthusiastic offering from John Fordham in The Guardian. This disc particularly highlighted works from the choral tradition and more “colour” development by the addition of some overdubbed vibraphone passages.
David’s first solo album Full English was released in the summer of 2012 by Champs Hill Records to coincide with the Jubilee celebrations. This was followed shortly by the trio’s Christmas album Ex-Mass. Both received outstanding reviews in publications such as Gramophone, The Art’s Desk and Classics Today. Tracks from Full English were played on Radio 2, and Ex-Mass was chosen by David Mellor as one of his best Christmas discs to be reviewed on his New Releases programme on Classic FM in December 2012. The trio was once again invited to be guests of Sean Rafferty in the Christmas edition of In Tune that year, where they performed some of their music from Ex-Mass.
This latest offering, Classically Re-Minded, featuring mainly the work of J S Bach in a wrapping of two light hearted sonatas by Scarlatti, is a nostalgic reminder of the album that started it all, with a pure piano trio sound created in the lovely music room at Champs Hill Records.