Liam Noble

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Reviews of Liam Noble


08/05/2012 London Jazz

A full set of original music from Liam Noble, his regular trio expanded with two horns, and a spiffy new Cheltenham venue in the Parabola Arts Centre. All seemed auspicious for this set, and it delivered, giving the Saturday a real lift.
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11/02/2009 Chris Parker, The Vortex

The answer to Liam Noble's rhetorical question to this gig's audience, 'Why have I gathered you all here tonight?' was: to hear the music from his trio's recently issued Basho album Brubeck, about which there is already information and comment on this site (see CD Reviews), so it seems sensible to concentrate on the element that distinguished album from performance, the bassist Mike Janisch (Dave Whitford is featured on the recording).

Coincidentally, reading Ben Sidran's fascinating and hugely informative 1992 Pomegranate interview collection, Talking Jazz: An Illustrated Oral History this very morning, I came across this thought from Wynton Marsalis: 'The drums don't keep time. The bass keeps the time. The drums add things here and there, put kicks in. Like what Elvin does.

But everything sits on the bass. If the bass is not happening, the band can't be happening Þ the bass is the anchor.' This typically pithy aperçu might have been written to describe Janisch's contribution: 'happening' he certainly was, his Mingusian exuberance exploding from the band sound and providing the perfect foil, not only for Noble's adventurous pianistic explorations of Brubeck's music (or, in the case of the gig-opening 'Give a Little Whistle' or Paul Desmond's 'Take Five', music associated with the great man), but also for drummer Dave Wickins, whose sporadic eccentric percussive eruptions frequently brought appreciative laughter from the audience.

Janisch's controlled ebullience, in both accompanying and soloing roles, was singularly appropriate in this musical context: whether playing an unaccompanied introduction to the Mexican traditional piece 'La Paloma Azul' or anchoring a wonderfully rackety version of 'Take Five', he was the heartbeat of the band. Overall, though, of course, this was Liam Noble's gig: as Brubeck himself comments, the UK pianist's pungently original but cogent interpretations of the likes of 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and 'Sixth Sense' provide 'an inspiration and a challenge'.


04/02/2009 Times Online, Alyn Shipton ****

Liam Noble at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Now aged 88, Dave Brubeck is one of the iconic figures in jazz, although with the exception of a couple of his compositions his vast repertoire remains largely unexplored by any pianist but himself. That has now changed. Leading a trio capable of tackling anything from free improvisation to tightly swinging four (or five or three) to the bar, the British pianist Liam Noble has come up with a highly creative approach that shines the spotlight on several previously unnoticed twists and turns of the old master's music.

Brubeck has taken a close interest, saying of Noble's forthcoming album, “I've never gone as far into the unknown as you three, but I have opened the door and peeked in. Your CD is an invitation to enter.” I suspect that Brubeck would have been even more impressed had he been in Birmingham to hear the trio launch the live version of its interpretations.

Noble's own credentials as a pianist make him an ideal candidate to explore Brubeck's music. In the deconstruction of Give a Little Whistle (loosely based on the Dave Digs Disney album) he took fragments of the melody and coaxed them into darting right-hand runs, inverted them into left-hand chordal clusters, and worried a remaining right-hand phrase like a terrier with a rag before dashing into a free-flowing solo over conventionally swinging bass and drums.

He is helped by the consistently inventive drumming of Dave Wickins, whose lovely old drum kit with blocks, chimes, and bells gave him a rich tonal palette for a congenial musical conversation with Noble. The old favourites Take Five and Blue Rondo were cunningly placed late in the set, but by then we'd travelled the lesser-known Japanese pathways of Rising Sun, complete with unorthodox percussion from Wickins, and fallen in with the Mexican lilt of La Paloma Azul, underpinned by Dave Whitford's mesmeric bass. Noble's explorations were never less than interesting and usually fascinating - a good excuse to pull the original albums off the shelf and see what other gems have been inadvertently overlooked.


03/02/2009 Peter Bacon, Birmingham Post

Pianist Liam Noble wasn’t exactly playing to a home crowd but he has a lot of local support, especially from the Birmingham Conservatoire students he teaches.

And aren’t they a lucky lot? Not only are Noble’s consummate skills as a jazz pianist clearly shown by this current trio project, but so is his thorough research of its subject matter: the music of Dave Brubeck.

He has a new CD awaiting release in April and Saturday’s concert began as it does, with Give A Little Whistle, the Pinocchio tune covered by Brubeck in an album of Disney songs.

Noble may be a familiar face in Birmingham, bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Dave Wickins are less so: the former fulfilled the expectations of so many modern bassists by being the solid central fulcrum about which wild things can spin, the latter was almost exhaustingly busy on a marvellously archaic kit and loads of added toys.

The three men worked their way through familiar Brubeck pieces, including It’s A Raggy Waltz, Three To Get Ready, Blue Rondo A La Turk and Paul Desmond’s Take Five, as well as lesser known tunes like Autumn In Washington Square and the Japanese-tinged Rising Sun.

Noble is the right man to play Brubeck – neither seems either able or willing to play a soppy chord or a sentimental line, even though Dave wrote the very pretty In Your Own Sweet Way and Liam played it (once solo and with the band as an encore) beautifully.

A crucial difference for me is that I have always found Brubeck’s playing a little splashy of tone and hard of touch, whereas Noble’s more exacting articulation is much easier to listen to while losing none of the excitement.


04/04/2005 James Griffiths The Guardian

Liam Noble, a musician who just keeps getting better


01/10/2002 John Fordham, The Guardian

a brilliant pianist


01/10/2002 Richard Palmer, Jazz Journal

"a writer of considerable idiomatic and emotional range he knows the instruments pantheon from Tatum to Taylor"


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