Pianist and composer Steve Tromans is always coming up with fascinating new projects, and is undoubtedly one of the most creative and active musicians on the Birmingham scene. A quote from the late Keith Tippett captured a key aspect of his music when he described it as ‘vital, passionate, fresh’.
Steve is an excellent pianist with a totally original style; we heard this on his solo piano album issued on FMR Records, and at the album launch at the Silvershine Club back in the summer 2021. There is a huge variety of music and many different moods on this album in which Steve presents a series of reactions to the pandemic.
During his career Steve has written a number of memorable commissions. A particular favourite is his setting to music of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl; this built up a powerful set of themes that accompanied the declaiming of the actual poem by Sid Peacock. This work was well received by both Jazz and Literature festivals, for example, it was performed at the both Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the Cheltenham Literature Festival as well as at the StAnza Poetry Festival in St. Andrews. Less well known is his tribute to the Chilean poet and singer Victor Jara, The Last Words of Victor Jara. Victor Jara was murdered by the army during the military coup d’etat in Chile, and Steve’s tribute to him is a moving piece that captures the beauty of Jara’s songs. Another memorable commission came from Symphony Hall as part of the venue’s Sounds of Space weekend; this was Musickosmos in which Steve drew on his love of Sun Ra’s music.
During the last lockdown period Steve came up with another totally original idea; he asked friends and colleagues to come up with recordings of short pieces, from two to five minutes in length, of music or spoken word to which that he could react. The result was either a duo performance with Steve adding to the piece submitted, or a remix by Steve of the piece, hence the title of the new CD, Duos and Remixes. This album will have 35 short tracks with players such as Chris Mapp, Sarah Farmer, Xhosa Cole, Olivia Murphy and many others. For the gig – Thursday 13th January in the Hexagon Theatre at mac – Steve will be playing with five of these colleagues to create a live version of the album. The plan is to play as a sextet, but as the music develops there will be a series of duos within the sextet performance. Steve refers to these as ‘secret duos’ as it may not be immediately apparent to the audience that they are acting as a duo, because they will be reacting to what the rest of the sextet is playing within the overall mix.
It all sounds fascinating. I expect that the music will be on the edge for much of the time, and that this way of working will create an exciting and refreshing experience for the band and the audience.
The line up is Steve Tromans, piano and monotron, Piera Onacko, synthesizers, Jude Rees, oboe, vocals & loop synthesizer, Tymoteusz Jozwiak, percussion, Sarah Farmer, violin, Si Paton, electric bass
The concert will take place in the Hexagon Theatre at mac in which social distancing will be possible. You can book here.