Jazz certainly isn’t the type of music that would come to mind for most people on hearing the names ‘Rimbaud’ and ‘Verlaine’. This feeling of surprise persisted throughout the duration of the evening at Kings Place, with Sorin Zlat as composer and pianist, Andrew Trim on the drums and Michele Montolli on the bass.
There was nothing crass or violent about this performance: it was a gentle jazz bringing a light, unconscious smile to the face. In fact, many members of the audience were beaming, their faces illuminated mauve and yellow, heads bobbing simultaneously in aesthetic approval. It was tempting to break into a Two-step.
Sorin Zlat was careful and deliberate, hovering over the keys with concentration, an attentiveness shared by all three musicians. Light notes floated out from the piano while the bass projected deeper, shiny and smooth ones, as metallic, almost reptilian sounds were emitted from the drums.
So where did the two symbolist poets figure here?
A quiet, perfumed beginning tasting of champagne introduced us to tinges of Edith Piaf, of a bar somewhere in Quartier Montmartre, with an enveloping atmosphere of old world calm. Airier pieces had something of Rimbaud’s voice in them, while more mature, serious ones seemed to evoke Verlaine’s presence winking at the audience. Their friendship, their love, their relationship germinated from the fusion of the high and low notes, a perfect balance and harmony. The performance gained its flow from the sparse emphasis distributed with a bang on the piano and drums – highly effective.
Perhaps it lacked the necessary dynamism for such an undertaking and felt a bit monotone and generic at times – it might have benefitted from more energy and symbolism, considering the ambition of the project. It’s difficult to say whether it differed from any other good jazz piece – excluding the finale of Romanian folklore, jazz, and opera in one. This was definitely a high point, fusing an unexpected mixture of all that’s modern and relevant today: internationalism with a whimsical, contradictory feeling.
It took a refined, unhurried listener to appreciate this performance: at any rate, not a show for the impatient.
The Sorin Zlat trio’s performance at King’s Place (10 October 2016) was supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute, London.