Review: Kyle Shepherd Trio at The Mahogany Room

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Kyle ShepherdUnassumingly located and brimming with delicacy, The Mahogany Room perfectly compliments the style of music it caters for, with a wooden allure and the seductive promise of skin-on-skin artist/audience intimacy. Modelled on some of the world’s greatest jazz clubs, the 20/30 person capacity venue boasts a warm atmosphere, away from the bustling rampage of the city bowl’s nightlife.

For just four nights, spanning eight sets, a local jazz trio featuring Kyle Shepherd on piano, Shane Cooper on double-bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums last week graced the tiny stage with jazz virtuosity and vibrancy.

On Thursday night Shepherd started off proceedings with a lengthy and solemn piece, reeling in the night and entrancing the seated few with finger flexing finesse before giving way to Cooper and an ominous and bouncy bass groove. Riddled with dynamics and built on carefully constructed crescendos, the band soared to highs and descended to lows, altering pace and mood as they pleased.

Poised and reserved, Sweetman provides apt percussive accompaniment with his use of off-beats and feel, a homage to the art of song rather than a showcase of chops. Sweetman’s skill and technical competence as a jazz drummer is quite brilliantly displayed by his octopus-like drumming, often playing in odd time signatures.

Shane Cooper is the bridge between Shepherd and Sweetman, often holding and steering the song completely on his accord, with bouts of rhythm and fretless soloing.

As the trio exited, the crowd howled for more. They swiftly returned for an encore with Shepherd proclaiming with a smile, “We’ll play more. We enjoy playing more.” With a simple gesture to Cooper, who nodded in confirmation, Shepherd led a last musical venture of the evening, building a pensive and climactic song. Awe-struck and with bellies full of jazzy satisfaction, the crowd did not disperse quickly, but lingered outside to share comments on the evening’s musical happenings. The assault on the senses will take days more to digest.

Keenan Oakes

The Kyle Shepherd Jazz Trio played at the Mahogany Room 2 – 5 May 2012.

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