OHISASHIBURI: REIMAGINING THE BEATLES (2020)
"For what it's worth (and that's really either next to nothing or absolutely nothing at all), I should confess that I've never really liked The Beatles. But that hasn't stopped me from enjoying this debut project from Ohisashiburi, a new quartet formed by splendid British pianist (and singer) Jonathan Gee and a trio of musicians from Puglia in southern Italy. Serious Beatle-heads may be even keener. Gee's Fab Four take six Lennon and McCartney originals – ‘And I Love Her’, ‘Michelle’, a few later-period songs – and mix in a trio of their own tunes. Gee's compositions ‘Starfish’ and ‘Silver’ are fine showcases for the group, especially Gaetano Partipilo, who demonstrates serious chops on alto sax; Gee is no slouch at the keys either. ‘Come Together’ careers with rambunctious abandon towards the original's famous percussive opening, gradually emptying itself of sound and fury; a satisfyingly unpredictable reimagining. The closing track, ‘Across the Universe’, begins with Partipilo delivering the melody with a lullabyish swagger and ends with a chorus of ‘Nothing's going to change my world’. Great – but how about doing The Stones next time?" Robert Shore, Jazzwise
GEE GALLO MINETTO LIVE IN ROMA (2020)
"Hard act to follow, that Frank Sinatra, but Jonathan Gee – known principally as a pianist, although he's sung the Mark Murphy songbook in the past – gives it a go when he launches into Bob Hilliard and David Mann's ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ here. The set was recorded at the Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival in Rome back in 2006, when the trio of Gee and Italian rhythm section Danilo Gallo (bass) and Alessandro Minetto (drums) were touring their debut album, Cream of Mandarins, and judging by this performance it's a shame we haven't heard more from them since. ‘Wee Small Hours’ is the only time Gee opens his mouth but the song's inclusion points to a nice sense of stage dynamics and variety. The tunes, a mixture of originals and standards, are well selected, and Gee demonstrates a McCoy Tyner-ish intensity and virtuosity on the likes of ‘Black Ball’, besides offering a searching unaccompanied take on ‘Ruby, My Dear’. The trio get to stretch out and explore in a Mehldau-ish manner on ‘We See’ and impress with their delicate interplay on the ballad ‘Tune for Emanuele'." Robert Shore, Jazzwise
WITH PHAROAH SANDERS @ CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL (2012)
"The show opened with a coruscating rendition of Trane's Giant Steps, rocketed forward by the furious drumming of Gene Calderazzo. The impeccably-dressed pianist Jonathan Gee sent flurries of notes tumbling over the tune's ever-shifting, churning brew of chords in a prodigious display of technical brilliance. This opener was followed by a mouth-watering rendition of Naima, during which Sanders tenor seared with fog-horn blasts and softened with moments of pure lyrical tenderness." Jack Losh, Jazz Times.
STEINWAY 2017 2-PIANO FESTIVAL AT PIZZA EXPRESS JAZZ CLUB, MIKE WESTBROOK & JG, MARCH 2017. First set MW: "The evening opened with a memorial to a friend that alternated between rage and melancholy, sentiment and grief. Closely voiced chords hovered, changed shape dramatically and rarely resolved. Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” followed, the melody stretched, the tempo set by a slow underlying pulse.
Gee’s upbeat rhythms and gospel lines were a contrast indeed. His first solo spot celebrated fantastical creatures, mostly of his own design — the “tortadillo”, half tortoise and half armadillo was one. His movements are less intense, the pulse is stronger and a strong left hand delivers riffs and independent lines. Ellingtonia closed the set, first played solo then, briefly, as a duet. It was introduced by Westbrook as “bar-room piano”, though only Gee’s throaty vocal came near to that.
Gee began the second half by reinterpreting two Westbrook classics, cleverly incorporating Westbrook touches into his broader-based approach. Monk covers followed, played beautifully by Gee, but after that it was Westbrook all the way. The unaccompanied “Love Stories”, from his solo piano album Paris, collected standards, operatic themes and originals into an extended organic whole.
Then, at last, came the duet. Based on Westbrook themes, it was something special. The two pianists swapped dissonance, embellished each other’s trills and thumps, and supported each other’s fancies. Westbrook’s New Orleans-styled “Gordy Bar” was the encore. Westbrook rolled; Gee decorated with sensitivity, vigour and a gravelly voice."
2014 at Rochester ( NY) Jazz Fest: "Excellent", Rochester City Newspaper.
2013 June Roger Thomas Jazz Wise
The Jazz and Roots night at St James Studio was the perfect opportunity for vocalist Cleveland Watkiss – along with Jonathan Gee (piano), Ernesto Simpson (drums) and Larry Bartley (bass) – to indulge themselves playing as the singer put it “songs I've loved from my youth, I call them my Songs Diaspora.”
When Seu Jorge released the Life Aquatic album featuring songs by David Bowie, Bowie was amazed with "the new level of beauty which he (Jorge) has imbued them with." Thus he should be equally pleased by the reworking of 'Space Oddity' that this band opened with.
Cleveland's elongated phrasing and perfect diction evoked a contemplative mood that drew you closer to the song’s lyrical content. The vocal contours he layered over Gee's soulful piano and Simpson’s wistful brushwork, and the delicate punctuations from Bartley's bass signaled an auspicious start to the evening.
The Rolling Stones might also have something to say about the treatment that 'Angie' received, with Ernesto's strong backbeat and funky stabs, gospel flavoured figures from the piano, and the bass adding bounce. If Mick was in the house he too might have a pleasing comment as Watkiss delivered the refrain with depth and pleading while still maintaining a suave composure. He might have got thumbs-up too for his daring attire of pastel hues from opposite ends of the colour-wheel.
Other songwriters from this personal 'Diaspora' that received a visitation included Gilbero Gil, Pete Townsend, Bob Marley, The Real Thing and Stevie Wonder. Cleveland and the band seem to have hit a good balance both in terms of concept, song choice, arrangement and delivery which was not only great to experience in the close setting of St James Studio but also leaves the impression that it could also make a good album. So lets hope they have such a project in the pipeline.
"The fire and invention that marked his (recent) performances with (Pharoah) Sanders are in full evidence on this disc ... Gee has a persuasively lucid touch when it comes to exploring even the knottiest clusters of notes... and a fast-talking intensity that endows his playing with gritty elegance... There's only one non original here, Monk's 'We See', even in the shadow of such an august jazz-piano master, his breathlessly sparkling originality shines through." Robert Shore, Jazzwise Magazine, December 2011
"A brilliant gem of contemporary piano trio." Jazz Tokyo magazine, January 2012
"Amid a host of bland January jazz releases, pianist and composer Jonathan Gee's new album appears like an oasis of unpretentious, nimble-fingered wit." Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph, January 2012
"From the irresistible opener, 'Beyond', on which Waits and Lepore positively seethe under Gee's vigorous runs and controlled climaxes, through a skilfully varied set of originals, plus a Monk tune,'We See', to the cogent closer, 'Cicada', the trio prove themselves equally adept at providing tumultuous, sometimes downright thunderous power, passages of splashily percussive playfulness, and the odd quieter moment... in short, the whole gamut of piano-trio music, played with exemplary commitment and verve by three masters of the craft." Chris Parker, London Jazz, February 2012
"...amazing communication between players... Today, cutting-edge jazz trios require interaction between players and expect both drummer and bassist to be more than just disciples. Trio leaders such as Jason Moran, John Escreet, Matthew Shipp all write and perform their music as a three-way conversation. Add to that list, London-based pianist Jonathan Gee... The summation of this trio is in Monk's 'We See'. Gee negotiates the track as if he is taking shorthandhopping, skipping and jumping as he accelerates across the melody. It's modern, it's Monk, and it's a three-way conversation." Mark Corroto, All About Jazz, August 2012.
"The mood throughout is one of bustling,vigorous three-way interaction, there'’s absolutely no flab on this lean and sometimes mean recording, there’'s an urgency about this music that speaks immediately of its New York origins... Gee produces torrents of notes and chords as Waits chatters and rumbles restlessly around him. Lepore acts as both anchor and inspired soloist... But its the scintillating dialogue between Gee and the dynamic Waits that really grabs the attention." Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann, January 2013
"Gee’'s deft original compositions make up the bulk of the album and display an innate love of interplay and sympathy between the players, bursting with innovation. He also returns to his long-standing affection with Thelonious Monk and his version of the great composer'’s “'We See'” is an album highlight." JAZZUK, February 2013
"We are in heavyweight territory (with Lepore and Waits) and Gee doesn't disappoint, giving his always forceful playing a really knotty, Monkish flavour at times, and responding strongly to the heightened rhythmic drive Waits brings to the band. Aside from one Thelonious Monk composition, all are original Gee tunes, and they share a feeling of being complex puzzles, tightly wound and in need of unrvelling and exploring, which is exactly what the three musicians do. Tortadilla is an example of a more reflective piece which explores rich harmonies while steadily ratcheting up the tension, and developing into a slow groove. More typical of the urgent material on the album is the opener, Beyond." Properganda Magazine
"Beyond flows freely, allowing all three players to point the way. Dragonfly is a sprightly theme with variations. Black Ball focuses on the weight of the Waits drums... explores areas which at times seem uncharted - suggesting a 'stream of conciousness' path." Les Tomkins, Jazz Rag
NORTHERN STAR PEOPLE
"Myllari is a terrific trumpeter who responds to Gee's busy lines with equally virtuosic improvisations... The tunes make up a potted history of electro-jazz: the squidgy 1980s tones of Blue; the sneaky groove of Red Ball; 147's tunefully modified drum and bass. Nice." John L. Walters, The Guardian
"...astonishing... This is Jazz Fusion for the 21st century with staggeringly complex drum and sound programming featuring very Eddie Henderson Kudu-period style trumpet and very angular analogue-sounding keyboards. The fact that there is so much going on in the production doesnt detract, infact it adds to the wow factor." Snowboy, Blues and Soul
"...breathtaking risks, improvisational genius, all channelled through technical assurance, provide edge-of-the-seat excitement." Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz Club
"Gee and Myllari, who have worked regularly together in Finland for about ten years, launched this latest collaboration at the London Jazz Festival in 2008. The tuneshalf written by Gee, half by Myllarireference a wide variety of electric and electronic genres, from trumpeter Miles Davis' early 1970s albums, through electro, jazz funk, 1980s synth pop, musique concrete and on to modern electronica. They do this, in the main, with a relish bordering on the manic, affectionately singling out and magnifying trademark mannerisms and anachronisms, and using them as the departure points for passionate and engaged improvising." Chris May, All About Jazz
Jonathan Gee Trio, Future Inns Jazz Club, Bristol, April 2010: "And the leader, an unfailingly interesting player who eschews blinding technique for its own sake, and breaking new ground when older ground is so fertile. He has a splendid, probing style which turns on exact placement of the note, and makes you want to know what the next one is going to be because you are caught up in the expectation, tension and release which underpins musical pleasure. No wonder he likes Monk so much."
New York Trio, Chapel Arts Centre, Bath, November 2009: "an evening of world class piano trio music with the ceaseless flow of lyrical ideas from Jonathan Gee at the piano to the fore." Mike Collins, jazz & music blog
"Jonathan Gee isn't usually discussed in the same breath as Django Bates or Julian Joseph among the younger generation of powerful British improvising pianists, but judging by recent performances, notably on the David Murray tour last year, he has blossomed into a performer of flexibility, resourcefulness and technical command to rival any of his generation." The Guardian
"Reflective, beautifully poised pianist, with the stunning drummer Winston Clifford and bassist Steve Rose." The Independent
"Depth and maturity ... sparky and sensitive... Gee is a compelling pianist, and his debut album is outstanding ... (his) incisive improvisatory style is capable of packing a wealth of rhythmic and harmonic ideas into a single phrase. Gee and Rose are two of the most continually inspiring musicians in town." Time Out
"Gee's band works like the best piano trios, with conversational exchanges between the instruments - he can swing hard with drive, he can be reflective like Bill Evans, and his originals are strong. " The Guardian
"Meticulously crafted themes contain much thought and originality ... inventive original pianist." London Evening Standard
"An absorbing programme of originals by Jonathan, this displaying well the remarkable clarity of his own lines and the ability of these particular players to explore the various facets of the tried and tested trio format. As ever, Winston Clifford is quite outstanding." Jazz UK
"What was particularly striking was the trio's avoidance of the routine. Straight No Chaser and Autumn Leaves were ruthlessly deconstructed, the latter especially, and although far less radical, My One and Only Love had the kind of delicate freshness that a ballad singer might envy." The Glasgow Herald
"He is one of European jazz's most celebrated musicians His music is precise, lucid and original, and at times breathtakingly lyrical." Visions of Britain
"Passionate yet unflashy, Gee hasn't yet achieved their (Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett) technical bravado, but for rhythmic sophistication he's right up there Listen to their momentum on 'Rathbone Place', the delicacy of 'Raiders of the Lost Legato', the ingenuity of 'Because' and the lyricism of 'When I Fall In Love'." London Evening Standard
CREAM OF MANDARINS (2004)
'Maybe it isn't coincidental that the artwork of this Italian-produced album shares some similarities with the soft-textured minimalism of ECM discs. Quite a lot of the acoustic piano trio music herein is ruminative, and a certain amount abrasively uncompromising, so it's certainly a session that falls into the freewheeling contemporary-creative category rather than a swing disc celebrating standards. But since the pianist is Jonathan Gee – a fine UK player with allegiances to Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner – there are plenty of signposts to the familiar, and the playing is exhilaratingly fresh. Gee usually plays with British musicians including the powerful drummer Winston Clifford, but this trio were born after the pianist's appearance at Italy's Apennine jazz festival in 2003. Bassist Danilo Gallo and drummer Alessandro Minetto are young rising stars of the Italian scene both as players and composers, and a random shot at playing together at the festival resulted in a dramatically creative band touching on the methods of Jarrett, Mehldau, Hancock and Paul Bley without attempting to clone off any of them." John Fordham, The Guardian
"Brought together for 2003's Appennine Jazz Festival, this trio gelled immediately, and has subsequently toured extensively and recorded this thoroughly absorbing, wide-ranging but artistically focused album. Although most of the group's material (a rollicking, tumultuous visit to George Shearing's 'Lullaby of Birdland' aside) is composed by band members and consists of relatively structured pieces, the album, as if setting out its stylistic stall, begins with a burst of free jazz. Thereafter, each bandmember provides highly distinctive compositions. Gee's are usually shortish, concise, neat; Gallo's are darker-hued, slowly unfurling; Minetto's are brisk but graceful. Very much a fiercely interactive, democratic trio, the band moves easily and unaffectedly between comparatively straightforward jaunty propulsiveness, in which Gee impishly plays with the time, and more contemplative, occasionally almost convoluted pieces, texturally and dynamically varied but negotiated with insouciant aplomb by all three men. Impeccably recorded, so that Minetto's extraordinarily nuanced cymbal work and Gallo's alternately loping and taut bass are captured in all their richness, this is a remarkably assured trio that lavishly rewards repeated listenings." Chris Parker, Jazz Review