Jonathan Gee: The Lions Revisited

Versatile British pianist, lately enamoured of Monk, focuses on singing, his fine voice thriving at one point over just a bass line

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In recent years, pianist Jonathan Gee has concentrated on the music of Thelonious Monk, notably in his partnership with Tony Kofi, but is now focusing more on his singing. Yet despite his fine voice, always well-poised, articulate and never straining for effect, he remains a pianist at heart, his sympathetic piano lines dovetailing with and perfectly supporting his vocals.

He carefully dismantles the Lennon/MacCartney classic Blackbird, taking it so slowly that the real meaning of the song – about empowering black women – becomes totally clear, and makes the thoughtful Alan Franks lyrics to Better Let Spring resonate with meaning. That said, the most effective song here is Cognac, where he abandons the piano altogether and sings Kate Westbrook’s surreal lyrics against a solo bass line of stark beauty.

There is an interesting selection of material on this set, his own compositions sitting alongside words and lyrics from the Gershwins (an achingly slow But Not For Me), Michel Legrand (an almost spoken You Must Believe In Spring) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (an erudite The Waters Of March, sung in both English and Portuguese), among others.

Boplicity uses lyrics from Annie Ross (and music from Cleo Henry and Gil Evans) and was arranged for Peter Ind’s 90th birthday celebration at the Verdict Club in Brighton in 2018. Andy Hammill plays supporting double or ukulele bass on five tracks, with guitarist Tom Remon making a fine appearance on the final track. But this is Gee’s album, a finely tuned, mature outing that repays repeated listens.

Discography
The Lions Revisited; Blackbird; Better Let Spring; Boplicity; Bright Eyes; You Must Believe In Spring; Cognac; But Not For Me; You Go To My Head; Waters Of March; Moody’s Mood For Love (41.22)
Gee (p, v); plus Andy Hamill (b); Tom Remon (g). London, 27 August 2021, 17 March 2022.
ASC Records ASCD193

Simon Adams