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Piano music

PJ piano St Georges 1

Most of the time, Pete Judge is a trumpeter. He’s based in Bristol and plays in three interesting bands: the quartet Get the Blessing, the trio Three Cane Whale and the duo Eyebrow, whose records I’m particularly fond of. He’s just released his second album of solo piano pieces, Piano 2. Here’s what he said in the brief liner note to its predecessor, a couple of years ago:

I come from a long line of piano players, though I’m not really one myself, having rebelled at an early age and inexplicably chosen the trumpet instead, but my favourite piece of furniture in my grandmother’s house was always the old upright piano in the front room, which later became my mum’s piano, and lived with her on the North Kent coast. Now it’s in Bristol, and these tunes were all composed on it, with the soft pedal permanently applied (initially for neighbourly reasons, and now just because that’s the sound that suits them). So this is a ‘piano’ album in both senses of the term.

Piano and Piano 2 were both recorded in St George’s, Bristol, a deconsecrated 1820s church reopened a few years ago as a concert space. I liked the first volume, but the second one I love.

It consists of 16 pieces, ranging in length between one and five minutes. Titles include “Darkening Hills”, “Wheatfield With Crows” and “Gurney’s Oak”. If you took that to suggest a rather literal English pastoralism, you’d be wrong. The music is non-generic — it’s not jazz, it’s not classical. It’s sturdy but also delicate. It’s melodic and austere at the same time. It’s inviting but not ingratiating. It takes its time. It’s not virtuosic at all, although Judge has a lovely touch. It’s satisfyingly well proportioned but not predictable. It’s quietly but firmly unsentimental. It has lots of things inside it — hymns, folk songs — but they’re metabolised so completely that the components aren’t visible.

I haven’t felt so close to a solo piano record since Keith Jarrett’s The Melody at Night, With You, the one he made when he was recovering from illness and wasn’t afraid to show his vulnerability. Piano 2 has a similar honesty. It’s not trying to wig you out or teach you something. It’s just there, like a friend. And at the moment it feels like the perfect music for the times we’re living through.

* The photograph of Pete Judge recording at St George’s is by Tim Allen. You can find Piano 2 on Bandcamp:

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tom King #

    I always enjoy your writing, the jazz content in particular, but until I read John Aston’s review of your Richard Seaman biography on the Speedreaders site I hadn’t realised you were well on the way to becoming a polymath.
    Being now 78 years old, I had given up the idea of owning that book, but, Lo, there it was as a Kindle, and I am now 25% through it, to the detriment of all the other things I should be doing.
    Thank you for the book, and your portrayal of Seaman’s world and all the connections.

    April 7, 2020
  2. Tim Adkin #

    Love Judge’s stuff so will look out for this – thanks for the head’s up. One of my favourite nights of the last 10 years was seeing Eyebrow at a thinly attended gig at The Goods Shed in Stroud. Pete, earlier that day, had left his trumpet on the train although thankfully, and somewhat miraculously, it reappeared later that day. He’s also a member of certain other outfits such as Organelles – a band which also features Three Cane Whale’s Paul Bradley- and plays trumpet on Joe Paice’s ‘Wonderstruck’ a quirky little album which contains a version of Mingus’ ‘Weird Nightmare’ which is particularly relevant in light of Hal Wilner’s sad death.

    April 7, 2020
  3. Thanks Richard – I only know Pete Judge the trumpet from Get The Blessing, and as a participant in various Bristol jazz performances, not least at St Georges, which I was involved with for 6 years. Worth mentioning two things: recording at St Georges is very special – the acoustic there is exceptional. Alfred Brendel and The Takacs String Quartet are some of the world class classical players who have chosen to record there. But it is great also for acoustic jazz: I can remember once hearing Dave Holland play there, and his stand-up bass filled the space, and felt as rich and close in tone as if we had been a small intimate club.
    St George’s started to be used as a concert hall in 1999 and there has been an exciting music programme there since, the jazz expertly mostly curated by Phil Johnson, no just a few years ago. It has recently been refurbished, and an additional building constructed next door.
    Whoah, and Hal Wilner’s death…do write something, Richard, he was a giant!

    April 7, 2020

    I think it’s Eyebrow, not Elbow – easily done! I’m very sad to hear the news from earlier respondents about Hal Wilner.

    April 8, 2020
  5. George Burt #

    Thanks Richard. I didn’t know anything about Pete Judge’s work before reading this, so I’ll look out for him now. St George’s is a lovely space, beautifully maintained. There’s a decorative star set into the ceiling where an incendiary came in during a WW2 air raid…. I saw a Barry Guy concert there a few years ago, and I agree with your correspondent Mark Kidel, the acoustic is marvellous. (I met David Bedford that night: “Ah! You’re the man that keeps writing to me about Lol Coxhill!”) And it was the day after the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra played with the London Improvisers Orchestra at the old Red Rose club. That was quite a week..! Another lovely article. Thanks again!

    April 8, 2020
  6. Nikolay Shienok #

    Thank you very much Richard for presentation of this really beautiful piano music. I have ordered both CDs as soon as I listened to them.

    April 9, 2020
  7. johnjohnhowkinscom #

    Many thanks for introducing me to Pete Judge. I’ve bought Piano 2. Wonderful. John

    From: “” Reply to: “” Date: Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 10:12pm To: John Howkins Subject: [New post] Piano music

    Richard Williams posted: ” Most of the time, Pete Judge is a trumpeter. He’s based in Bristol and plays in three interesting bands: the quartet Get the Blessing, the trio Three Cane Whale and the duo Elbow, whose records I’m particularly fond of. He’s just released his second alb”

    April 9, 2020
  8. Philip Putnam #

    Well worth a listen: Alister Spence’s new solo album, Whirlpool. And his trios, and the duo with Myra Melford.

    April 11, 2020

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