There is a certain iron discipline needed in playing piano in a cocktail bar I could not help thinking when I was picking out, or trying to given the convivial din, the tinkling cascades of bebop and strands of old songs hidden in the busy thunder of a talkative early evening Archduke crowd.
Pre-Christmas a stone’s throw from the Thames and the Festival Hall the Archduke in Waterloo, central London, has been putting on jazz for years. Until tonight I had never darkened its doors oddly enough although I had often walked past and it always looks inviting.
On this occasion I was tempted in by the mooted appearance of Barry Green, the pianist best known for his work with Ian Shaw and Emilia Mårtensson. As it turned out Barry was not to be seen, actually I did not mind because it did not matter as this was a chance to discover a player unfamiliar to me who certainly was worth listening to.
The barman could only identify the diminutive pianist as “Michael” and peering through the decorative ironwork from my perch it turned out to be Michael Horner, above. Who is he you might well ask? Well Horner studied at Guildhall, one of the London scene’s main jazz college incubators. Who does he remind me of? Well not easy to make it out given the din in the restaurant and the briefness of my visit allied with the fact that there was no amplification at all to make things even harder. But John Turville springs to mind, perhaps a little, certainly the way he can do locked hands Shearing style but certainly without straining to make too many inexact matches he has a quick wit and plenty of fluency drawing on classic bebop and Cool school material. A name to watch certainly. Above all a sound to remember. Seek him out. SG