“Near and Now” is Gwilym Simcock's second full album for solo piano. The first, the highly successful “Good Days at Schloss Elmau” from 2011, was his ACT debut. That early album was nominated for the Mercury Prize and was an important step in establishing the Welsh-born pianist's reputation internationally. It has also stood the test of time, a fact which is at least in part due to the strong architectural sense that Simcock always brings to his work as both composer and improviser. As he says: “I have always enjoyed the challenge to make sure that a piece of music has a satisfying arc to it – it should take you on a journey whether it is composed or improvised.” As the Daily Telegraph’s Ivan Hewett’s wrote of “Elmau” at the time: “Simcock has a feeling for the way harmony can create architecture as well as momentary colours – a rare gift.”
The time while travelling the world with Metheny and his all-star quartet has been put to good use. Simcock explains: “In the last six months or so, whilst away from home, I spent my spare time writing new music for a second solo album. I actually wrote much more, but quite a few of the pieces expanded.” In the new album, recorded at Simcock's home in Berlin, the pianist is aiming for an “honest and personal sound,” for which he cites Keith Jarrett’s home-recorded album “The Melody At Night, With You” as a model. The instrument is a newly-acquired Steinway “B” from around 1900, completely custom-rebuilt for Simcock by the Klangmanufaktur partnership in Hamburg.
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