Peter Lemer Quintet: Son of Local Colour (ESP-Disk’)

A review of the live album paying tribute to the pianist's 1966 album

Peter Lemer Quintet, Son of Local Colour
The cover of Son of Local Colour by the Peter Lemer Quintet

Performances that pay homage to entire albums have become more common in recent times. Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, and Freedom Suite aren’t the only sets being re-examined either. British pianist Peter Lemer wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of his free-blowing 1966 debut effort Local Colour with a live performance reconvening the quintet that recorded the album for ESP. On February 20, 2018 (52 years later, but who’s counting?), he got four-fifths of his wish. John Surman (baritone and soprano saxophones), Tony Reeves (bass), and Jon Hiseman (drums) joined Lemer at London’s jazz club Pizza Express. Tenor saxophonist Nasir Ahmad (George) Khan had fallen ill, so Alan Skidmore—who played with Surman in SOS—served as a worthy substitute. The performance would be one of the last for Hiseman, who died from complications of a brain tumor four months later.

Half a century did little to hamper the enthusiasm that these players had for the music. In fact, by the time they reach the frenzied closer, “In the Out,” they’ve established a cogency you’d normally expect from a long-established group rather than one reading scores onstage. Five of the original album’s six tracks are revived, along with two newer pieces by Surman and Lemer, as well as a crazed reading of John Coltrane’s “Impressions.” While the music is free in that it takes serious liberties with tempo and structure (especially in Hiseman’s fiery performance), none of the players forgo structure or melodic content in favor of pure energy playing. The 1966 quintet was only together for six months, and this group’s time was likewise short-lived. Luckily it was documented, with sonic clarity, to prove that some lightning does strike twice.

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Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at shanleyonmusic.blogspot.com.