MIKE NOCK NOCTET

Foundry 616, January 4

8/10

Nock res
Mike Nock. Photo: Karen Steains.

This concert was a testament to stoicism, bravery, willpower, indefatigability, and the fact that, if music is in your blood, it will somehow find its way into the world. On July 2 Mike Nock was run over on a pedestrian crossing by a hefty four-wheel drive vehicle. The injuries were serious, excruciating and threatened his ability to play piano again. He is still not fully recovered.

Yet, here he was, in his first performance since that catastrophe, proudly leading his eight-piece band before a sold-out audience in which the benevolence towards him hummed in the air like a wind-harp.

In a band full of distinctive voices the pianist’s remains the most idiosyncratic, because all his illustrious career his playing has been a dialogue between ardent lyrical beauty, R&B-tinged groove and the work of a slightly anarchic, mischievous magician who pulls bent rabbits out of thin air.

On Julien Wilson’s mysterious, anthemic Rebellious Bird (the one non-original), Nock engaged in a dialogue with trumpeter Nick Avgenicos in which he gradually dismantled the harmonies, as a Cubist might a face. On Wigwam lyricism and mischief cohabited like sparring siblings, while his breadth of invention on Area 51 suggested he could warp a nursery rhyme into avant-garde experimentalism, and vice versa.

If I’ve dwelt on Nock the pianist it is because we nearly lost him, and it was a mammoth achievement on his part – and a delight for us – to be hearing him. But Nock the composer, band-leader and arranger was also in action, and a striking aspect here was that he has built a band of juxtapositions. The sharp edges and jutting angles of Avgenicos’s solos, for instance, contrasted with the swooping curves of Karl Laskowski’s tenor, and Alex Silver’s soulful trombone contrasted with Jack Stoneham’s sizzling, leaping alto. Hilary Geddes, new to these ears, proved both a fine guitarist and a discerning sonic sculptor, while the regular rhythm section of Brett Hirst and James Waples provided more than ample ignition. Welcome back, Mr Nock.

Mike Nock Trio with Kristin Berardi: Foundry 616, February 8.