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Gerard Presencer - The Optimist - The Guardian

18 May 2000
The Guardian

A few years ago, Keith Jarrett remarked in the Guardian that the trouble with so much contemporary music was that too many people were trying to write their own. Jarrett's views can be unforgiving, but - like his arch-enemy Wynton Marsalis - he is a phenomenal improviser, one who mostly devotes that gift to the reinterpretation of other people's music. Jarrett and Marsalis would not have such big reputations if they had to stand or fall by their writing rather than their playing. Gerard Presencer, the young British trumpeter - though the flugelhorn is his favourite option - is also a virtuoso improviser, as he was expected to confirm when he appeared at the Jazz Cafe with his fusion group Platypus; playing music from their new album, "The Optimist". Presencer's spontaneity, freshness of phrasing and rhythmic astuteness have recently moved to a level even higher than the standards he has applied since his mid-teens. On Tim Garland's tour with his British/American ensemble last year, the trumpeter sounded as if he could have played all night without repeating himself. Much the same happened in his solos at the Jazz Cafe.

He likes the upper registers of the flugelhorn, but the more mellow instrument rounds the sonorities of the high notes. He mingles fragmentary, insinuating Miles Davis-like phrases with deft flourishes and squeezes embellishments into spaces they ought not to fit, without diminishing either their shapely designs or the momentum of the solo.

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