Trumpeter Dick Pearce has recently invested in a new toy – a valve trombone. He informed us, rather modestly, that he was ‘trying it out’ tonight, and that we were guinea pigs to his new sound. So he set about employing it liberally throughout the set, such that about half the tunes were played on it, and the rest given to his more familiar trumpet. But novelty value aside, the change of timbre and expression afforded by the instrument’s raspy bass-baritone register injected some welcome variety into what could have been simply a procession of pleasant, albeit accomplished, jazz standards.
After the opening salvoes of ‘On the Trail’, the first number to benefit from Dick’s new approach was ‘Bernie’s Tune’, taken at a boppy tempo which allowed pianist Dave Newton to deploy his characteristic tremolo chording to full effect. If Pearce was hesitant with his new bundle of brass and tubes then it didn’t show, as he was clearly relishing the chance to blast out notes below the stave that had previously eluded him. Occasionally, here, he tangled with the upper and middle reaches of Tom Hill’s bass, but it made for some crazy counterpoint and riveting results.
The trombone lent Victor Young’s ballad ‘Weaver of Dreams’ a certain coquettishness that, along with Newton’s nifty piano, could best be described as pert. In contrast, the bossa nova feel of Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Saudade’, as well as the evergreen ‘Bye bye Blackbird’ benefited from the usual trumpet, piano, bass combo.
Nat Adderley’s ‘Worksong’ was afforded a swaggering treatment with Pearce on valve trombone and Newton and Hill sparking off each other. Then came Pearce’s finest moment of the night – for this reviewer at least – with a cooler than cool reading of Kenny Baron’s ‘Sunshower’. The Harmon mute put one in mind of Miles Davis, but Pearce’s solo that grew out of the tune was akin to a butterfly emerging from a caterpillar: in other words, beauteous and bountiful.
The homeward stretch consisted of an up-tempo reading of ‘It’s You or No-one’, a restrained
‘Stellar by Starlight’, a straight-ahead ‘There is no Greater Love’, a Latinate ‘Lover Man’ and a no-nonsense ‘Cherokee’, the latter giving Pearce one last chance to honk his new horn!
©2017 Julia Price