A visit to Ronnie Scott’s this week to hear a new project of Nikki Yeoh’s based on the music of the French Algerian composer Maurice El-Medioni and featuring a trio with Shirley Smart on cello and Demi Garcia Sabat on drums has led to a reflection on my part on the nature of audience reaction. The trio was appearing as part of Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival and an added bonus was the appearance of the Bokani Dyer Trio in the opening set.
All three sets, one by Bokani and two from Nikki, were excellent and both followed similar musical principles, that of integrating jazz with Arab and Sephardic music in the case of Nikki Yeoh’s reinterpretation of El-Medioni’s music, and jazz with South African music in the case of the Bokani Trio.
This very satisfying experience and the visit to Ronnie Scott’s led me to spend the following evening listening to the recently issued double Cd (Bill Evans: Evans in England on the Resonance label) of Bill Evans playing live with his trio with Eddie Gomez on double bass and Marty Morell on drums at Ronnie Scott’s in December 1969. The music on the CD is very different from that which I heard live at Ronnies; it focusses on Bill Evans’ reworking of show tunes such as Stella By Starlight, Our Love Is Here to Stay etc, though the interaction between the members of the trio and the freedom of the bass and drums was the forerunner of the integration at the heart of both trios I heard at Ronnies.
I will leave a full review of the night to others, see Mike Hobart’s review in the Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/a47faeb8-ba88-11e9-8a88-aa6628ac896c, but subject to a Paywall). But one, perhaps rather trivial, aspect of the audience reaction to the music struck me. The audience for the Bill Evans Trio – at Ronnie Scott’s in 1969 – applauds by clapping at the end of each tune and in the traditional jazz way at the end of most solos. The applause is warm and enthusiastic, but rarely goes beyond that. I did detect a gentle bit of cheering at the end of the set, but this was muted. By contrast, at Ronnie Scott’s this week each tune, particularly in the Nikki Yeoh set, was greeted with an outburst of cheering, whooping and shouts as well as clapping. Some of the solos, especially some excellent drum solos from Demi Garcia Sabat, were applauded, but not all.
Others, notably Richard Williams on The Blue Moment site, have noted that audiences for the new wave of young jazz groups such as Sons of Kemet or Ezra Collective similarly show their appreciation by cheering and whooping, even during solos as well as at their end.
I had to leave just before the end of Nikki Yeoh’s second set so missed her finish with a participatory event that got the Ronnie Scott’s audience up on its feet. I am gratreful to Brian Homer for this information.