Steve Howe Trio

Bloomsbury Theatre, Euston, London
Thu 17 May 07; £20


First set:
Travelin' (originally by Kenny Burrell with Jimmy Smith, on Blue Bash!)
Dream River
Chitlins con Carne (originally by Burrell)
Distant Seas (originally on Natural Timbre)
Mood for a Day
Blue Bash! (originally by Smith with Burrell)
Excerpt from Close to the Edge

interval

Steve Howe acoustic solo set:
Bareback (Not Necessarily Acoustic)
medley: Smile/Whispering/Trambone ("Smile" originally by Charlie Chaplin; "Trambone" originally by Chet Atkins)
Cactus Boogie (The Steve Howe Album)
Sketches in the Sun
Intersection Blues

Trio second set:
Kenny's Sound (originally by Burrell)
unidentified piece (possibly "Momenta" from Quantum Guitar?)
The Haunted Melody (originally by Roland Kirk)
Sweet Thunder (Pulling Strings)
Clap

Encore:
Siberian Khatru
 

Steve Howe: 1964 Gibson ES-175 electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Dylan Howe: drum kit
Ross Stanley: Hammond XK3 organ


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The second date in a short UK tour brought the Steve Howe Trio to UCL's Bloomsbury Theatre. The last time I saw Steve Howe he was stood before a rack of guitars, on stage with Asia, rockin' hard, his playing dominating the sound. It is a testament to his versatility that there was such a contrast with tonight: the Trio have a more laidback presentation, Steve sitting at the front, the whole show on just two guitars: his ES-175 electric and an acoustic. The set saw Steve re-visiting his influences, the jazz guitar of the 1950s and 1960s (particularly Kenny Burrell), while solo compositions and a handful of Yes tracks were re-interpreted for the jazz trio format.

The Steve Howe Trio seems to have been the brainchild of Dylan Howe, Steve's eldest son and an established jazz drummer in his own right: his Quintet have recently released two albums on Motorik Recordings, Translation Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Dylan brought in Ross Stanley on Hammond organ from the Quintet.

The show began with a couple of Kenny Burrell pieces and a couple of Steve Howe originals, including "Distant Seas" in an interesting electric arrangement. Steve was an amiable host, introducing the pieces and talking about his influences. While the guitar remained the focus, there were solos for Dylan and Ross Stanley too. The first Yes piece of the evening was "Mood for a Day", dedicated to wife Janet who was in the audience. Originally an acoustic solo composition, this was the most striking re-interpretation of the first half, the jazz trio arrangement stretching and morphing the familiar melody.

"Blue Bash!", a Jimmy Smith composition from his album of the same name with Kenny Burrell, brought Stanley more to the fore. The first set then ended with an extract from "Close to the Edge". This was closer to the original than the other Yes songs, although perhaps faster than Yes have played it in recent years, with Dylan's ferocious drumming for the piece sometimes echoing that of a young Bill Bruford. (Bruford had, after all, been his old drum teacher.)

There were clearly many Yes fans in the audience of about 200, with the Yes tunes producing the biggest audience response. I also spotted Chris Squire, who is reportedly working hard on plans for a Yes tour next year.

The second set began with a solo Steve Howe on acoustic guitar and a familiar set including "Bareback", "Cactus Boogie", "Intersection Blues" and a nice "Sketches in the Sun". Most in keeping with the rest of the evening was a medley of "Smile", "Whispering" and Chet Atkins' "Trambone". While "Whispering" dates back to the 1920s, Steve referenced Les Paul's version (from the 1950s) as the first time he heard the piece.

The trio returned with some more jazz compositions of old, including an arrangement of Roland Kirk's flute piece, "The Haunted Melody". "Sweet Thunder" got the trio treatment next, with the set ending with "Clap". Steve began and ended "Clap" unaccompanied on electric guitar, but the middle section saw Dylan and Ross let loose. "Clap" was written on the occasion of Dylan's birth, so I wonder how he felt 38 years later interpreting the piece?

There was something of a friendly tension between Steve Howe's compositions and Yes lineage on the one hand and the trad jazz playing of Dylan and Ross Stanley, and that was best exemplified in a stellar encore as "Siberian Khatru" was re-worked. More than "Close to the Edge", the performance achieved a balance between the prog rock dynamics of the original and the jazz stylings of the Trio.

Steve Howe was playing very well. Dylan was on a traditional jazz drum kit, similar to Bruford's in the current Earthworks band. He's a precise and energetic player. Stanley was on a brand new XK3, the result of a new sponsorship by Hammond.

I don't know what plans the Trio have for the future. I would guess this 5-date tour was a proof of concept and I hope further dates and recordings follow. The trio format is logistically cheap and Steve Howe comes across very happy to be touring with Dylan. After many years assisting of Dylan playing on his father's albums, Steve has now guested on one of his son's (This Is It) and the Trio shows further how Dylan is able to take his father to new places musically.
 

Henry Potts, 19 May 07

Addendum: A quote from the review above, slightly re-worded ("friendly tension between Steve Howe's compositions and Yes lineage and the hard bop jazz of Dylan and Ross. A stellar encore achieved a balance between the prog rock dynamics of the original and the jazz styling of the trio.") cropped up on several sites (e.g. Ronnie Scott's) in May 2008 in the run-up to the band's 2008 tour in June. I presume it was included in the promo material put out. I feel honoured! (HP, 23 May 2008)


Originally posted to alt.music.yes and Allgoodpeople.net.

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