The Enigmatic Title and Its Inspiration
The album “Lucky Teeth” by Liam Noble and Geoff Simkins derives its intriguing title from the peculiar antics of 19th Century music hall performer Albert “Zanetto” Bale. Among his various acts, Bale earned fame by catching vegetables on a fork held between a gap in his front teeth. Once, he even managed to catch a turnip thrown from Clifton Suspension Bridge in front of a 5000-strong audience.
While certainly bizarre, Bale’s story can be seen as a metaphor for modern-day jazz musicians, who often face challenges and take risks in their pursuit of producing genuine art.
Creating an Album on a Shoestring Budget
In a recent interview with LJN, pianist Liam Noble shared his aspiration to make an album he could be proud of, despite a limited budget. Recorded at London’s Vortex by Alex Killpatrick in October 2022, “Lucky Teeth” has achieved this goal, featuring a well-paced program of standards, originals, contemporary classics, and a unique pop cover.
Intuitive Interplay and Diverse Musical Selections
Each piece on the album serves as a launchpad for the duo’s remarkable intuitive interplay. Whether playing empathetic counterpoint, thrilling chase sequences, or exchanging good-natured blows, Noble and Simkins are always in sync.
Geoff Simkins’s exceptional post-Konitz style is on full display in the opening track, “Stella By Starlight,” showcasing his top-notch melodic improvisation. Liam Noble further elevates the music with his sensitive comping and the clever shift of focus in his angular solo.
Ellington’s “Warm Valley” receives a similarly expansive treatment, with the duo relying on their decades of combined experience to reconstruct the material as they see fit. However, their cover of Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer” proves to be an unexpected highlight. The lilting chord sequence from Taylor and Rhodes offers ample opportunity for Simkins to showcase his improvisational skills, with the melody only becoming fully apparent deep into the performance.
Keith Jarrett’s “Memories Of Tomorrow,” the coda from his 1975 Köln Concert, stands out among the newer pieces, although the boppish interpretation of Steve Swallow’s “Eiderdown” is equally noteworthy. When compared to the version on the 1978 LP “Crosscurrents” by the Bill Evans Trio with Konitz and Marsh, it’s difficult to choose a favorite.
The album concludes with the playful “When You’re Smiling,” reflecting Noble’s statement that “there’s freedom in playing standards and discipline in playing free.” This philosophy permeates the entire album, as the duo’s relaxed virtuosity and adventurous spirit offer fresh perspectives on jazz tradition.