Good Days at Schloss Elmau

Artist: Gwilym Simcock

Date of Release: 07/01/2011

Catalogue no: ACT 9501-2

Label: ACT

Price: £9.50

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Track Listing







These are the Good Days












Plain Song




Northern Smiles




Can We Still be Friends




Wake Up Call




Elmau Tage









29/12/2011 The Silver Tongue

Curve ball!

Gwilym Simcock is an avant-garde jazz pianist who was this yea nominated for the Mercury music pr- Wait! Come back. Just hear me out. I know this is an odd choice for such a high spot, you have to understand where you have to come from with this album (and it’s quite a simple place):

Gwilym Simcock is just a damn good musician.

If you’re a musician yourself, especially a piano player, then it’s hard to listen to Good Days at Schloss Elmau without feeling this intense and passionate jealously. Simcock’s ability to play the most complicated, strange, beautiful and sometimes atonal music from memory is astounding, and when he gets up and plays the inside of the piano as a percussion instrument in the opening song, it almost feels like he’s trolling all the other musicians that might be listening. Good Days at Schloss Elmau isn’t just the artist showing off – the album contains what I think are some of the strongest pieces of his career, slipping comfortably between formless, graceless obscurity and tightly constructed mastery. It’s an album not to be missed, especially if you need a performer to secretly hate a bit. With his stupid “talent”. God damn.


21/12/2011 The Jazz Breakfast

Playing solo piano and in impressive surroundings, Simcock gets to explore all his influences and musical education, feeding not only his jazz improvisations but also his classical background into these eight solo pieces. They were written with one exception – the gorgeous Plain Song – specially for this recording. They are by turns lyrical and energetic, rhapsodic and light-hearted. It’s joyful stuff in every sense, having the excitement and barely contained enthusiasm of spontaneous dance and shout, but a deep and satisfying spiritual joy also.


11/11/2011 Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen

Simcock’s solo disc is a winner in my books filled with stirring, lyrical, virtuosic music.
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10/02/2011 John Fordham, Guardian 4 stars ****

an awesome solo debut. The chord-rammed blizzard of sound on Wake Up Call borders on free music, Northern Song recalls Django Bates's melodies and the bluesy, sublimely paced and faintly Mehldauesque Gripper is surely one of the great contemporary jazz piano performances.


27/01/2011 Chris Ingham, Mojo, 4 stars ****

Simcock’s reputation as a great pianist has been building since his early twenties. Now 30, he enters the pantheon with this solo set, beautifully recorded in a German studio overlooking the mountains, which lays out the full panoply of his breathtaking gifts. Though a magnificent improviser, jazz doesn’t quite cover what he does. Echoes of Ravel, Debussy, Chopin and Bach harmonise with those of Peterson, Shearing, Evans and Jarrett. The impression is of the whole of musical history having been profoundly absorbed and utilised as fuel for his spontaneous art. Add to this a thrilling rhythmic precision, structural rigour and an ability to express an essentially romantic conception with the full range of pianistic colours and timbres and the result is an extraordinary recital by a major talent. Makes bebop sound like child’s play.


24/01/2011 MusicOMH 4 stars ****

It's an impressive and absorbing album, beautifully recorded, and it remains remarkable that music of this range and scope can be recorded by one person, on just one instrument in just a single day.


19/01/2011 Kathryn Shackleton, BBC Website

Simcock proves himself once again to be world-class
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16/01/2011 Dave Gelly, The Observer

Gwilym Simcock is a stupendous improviser and a remarkable musician all round. He was a teenage classical piano prodigy when he discovered jazz and now, at 29, he has collected most of the British jazz awards going. But, left alone with a piano, he creates music which is neither jazz nor classical but simply itself. It's hard to ignore the expectations raised by labels, but it's worth the effort because there's so much to listen to in these eight pieces, especially the melodies buried inside his harmonies and the mercurial changes in mood and texture.


16/01/2011 Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann

Everything sounds dazzlingly fresh with the melodic qualities of Simcock's writing always readily apparent.
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14/01/2011 Ivan Hewitt, The Daily Telegraph

He’s a formidable musician as well as a formidable pianist, with a feeling for the way harmony can create architecture as well as momentary colours - a rare gift.


10/01/2011 Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

It’s joyful stuff in every sense, having the excitement and barely contained enthusiasm of spontaneous dance and shout, but a deep and satisfying spiritual joy also. That he has achieved this understanding at so young an age suggests there is a lot more profound music to come in what is already a remarkably rich and fruitful career, despite its brevity (remember, this is only Simcock’s third recording under his own name!)
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09/01/2011 Phil Johnson, Independent

the music is both serious and impressive: The lyrical John Taylor-isms we've heard from him before are mixed with rhythmical, even bluesy, workouts


08/01/2011 John Bungey, The Times 4 stars****

Full of soaring lyricism and advanced harmony, more Mozart than Monk. The obvious comparison is with Keith Jarrett and Simcock pays direct homage in the darting runs and gospel climax of Northern Smiles.... This record will only advance his cause.


07/01/2011 Metro

Like Mehldau, the much-acclaimed Welsh pianist Gwilym Simcock started out on a classical training route (not surprising when your father is a church organist, perhaps) but had his head turned, at age 15, when he was given a tape that introduced him to the likes of jazzers Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett. You can hear the influence of the latter, as well as Bach, Chopin and Mozart, on his new solo recording for jazz maverick Siggi Loch’s ACT label, Good Days At Schloss Elmau. The resort in question is a hideaway in the Bavarian Alps and Simcock wrote all except one of the tracks specially for the project. The playing throughout is phenomenal, not least on Northern Smiles, which takes an almost folkish air and injects it with gripping high-altitude, blues-inflected Sturm und Drang drama.


07/01/2011 Jack Massarik, Evening Standard CD of the Week 4 stars****

Adventurous yet as sophisticated and technically brilliant as ever, Gwilym Simcock's latest album marks a new stage in his career. Having joined the ACT label, Manchester's world-class pianist has chosen to record solo at the Bavarian castle of its boss, Siggi Loch. A sensible idea, the castle's acoustics being of studio standard and its concert grand magnificent. Simcock plays it with rare verve, explaining in the sleeve notes that he is now less concerned with any (presumably imaginary) deficiencies in his playing than with the spirit in which the music is made. The benefits are dramatic.


07/01/2011 Mike Hobart, Financial Times 4 stars ****

The Welsh-born pianist plays up his classical roots on this solo set of eight studio-recorded originals.

The lush optimism of the opening title track captures the Bavarian luxury retreat’s opulent setting, pointillist ripples on “Mezzotint” add a pensive touch and the blues-inflected pedal point of “Gripper” menace. There is songbook-flavoured impressionism, a percussive reveille – “Wake Up Call” – and lots of tricky counterpoint.

Beautifully recorded with ample room for Simcock to ferret round his self-penned themes, the CD captures the pianist on top neo-romantic form.


03/01/2011 Bruce Lindsay, Allaboutjazz

Good Days At Schloss Elmau is a lovely recording, with many moments of dazzling beauty.
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01/01/2011 John Lewis, Uncut

These eight original compositions were recordedat Schloss Elmau, a resort in the Bavarian Alps, and share a certain ECM-ish sensibility. Meditative pieces such as "Gripper" or "Plain Song" certainly invoke Keith Jarrett's solo work, but Simcock also showcases a fearsome piano technique that adds a modernistic twist to Bach ("Mezzotint") and takes Bartok into avant-jazz territory ("Wake Up Call")


24/12/2010 John Fordham, The Guardian

F&M playlistOur music team pick the songs or albums, old or new, they just can't turn off
Gwilym Simcock Good Days at Schloss Elmau Since he was a child, Simcock has effortlessly absorbed and adapted every piece of musical input he encounters, and this unaccompanied session of eight originals touches on his early classical inspirations, modern composers including Ligeti, and jazz pianists from Thelonious Monk to Keith Jarrett.


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