…an intimate and absorbing album.
ASC Records ASCCD193
Jonathan Gee (piano, vocals); Andy Hamill (double bass, ukulele bass); Tony Remon (guitar)
Recorded 27 August 2021 & 17 March 2022
All my encounters with Jonathan Gee have centred on his work as a pianist, and more often than not as leader of a fine trio. That is until now, and the opportunity to listen to The Lions Revisited, and have my head turned by Gee’s vocals.
My first meeting with the music of Jonathan Gee was nearly forty years ago when by chance I heard him play in a small cellar jazz club in Cardiff. He was performing as part of a quartet led by Welsh saxophonist, Jonathan Lewis playing contemporary standards by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, et al. The quartet was a regular draw at the club, but on this occasion, Gee was guesting on piano and I remember being completely blown away by his playing.
So, what do we make of Gee as a vocalist? On first listening the jury was out and I was not quite sure what to think. On subsequent hearings things became a lot clearer and a verdict easy to reach. Like his trio albums, Gee has approached the recording with a very clear idea of the music he wanted to create, and how to present it.
Half of the album features Gee accompanying himself on piano with the other tracks featuring Andy Hamill on bass, and on a lovely ‘Moody’s Mood For Love’ the vocals are accompanied by bass and Tony Remon on guitar.
By varying the contexts in which to present his vocals, Gee has succeeded in producing a diverse programme of standards with a couple of his own original compositions that sit together to make a very satisfying whole.
This then makes it difficult to source particular tracks for mention as each is very distinctive. Gee’s relationship with standards from the jazz repertoire is beautifully represented on ‘You Must Believe in Spring’ with bassist Andy Hamill sympathetic support to both the vocal and piano accompaniment and ‘You Go To My Head’ for vocals and piano.
The vocalist’s ability to swing and scat is a joy on ‘Boplicity’ superbly accompanied by Hamill in a duet for voice and bass, and the sheer technique involved in singing Jobim’s notoriously difficult ‘The Waters of March’ which has been the downfall of many. Here Gee sails through, making it sound natural and relaxed, even singing in both English and Portuguese.
Taking composer credits, Gee performs four of his own compositions, the captivating title track and ‘Bright Eyes’ for which he wrote both words and music; and the ballad ‘Better Let Spring’ with lyrics by Alan Franks. However, the most fascinating of all is ‘Cognac’ and written collaboratively with Kate Westbrook who provided the text.
Originally conceived as an electronic instrumental, Gee sent the music to Kate asking for some lyrics using the songs title as a basis for the words. Kate’s prose was probably more than the pianist had bargained for but wrote a melody for the lyrics sending an a cappella recording to bassist Hamil who added an arco accompaniment.
An extraordinary piece it takes a few listens to fully appreciate with Westbrook’s stunning text and Hamill’s intuitive response to the words and Gee’s melody.
A wonderful album to sit and relax to, with maybe a cognac or two, and luxuriate in the playing and singing of Gee who has created an intimate and absorbing album.
Reviewed by Nick Lea