Colin Currie and Huw Watkins

Perth Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

four stars

SOCIAL distancing between musicians is less of a problem for percussionists, whose instruments often dictate that moving from one thing to hit to another in the space the music allows is more of the issue.

The closing concert in Perth’s Live and Unlocked lunchtime series, which has seen audiences – temperature checked, masked and registered at the door – enjoying live music for the first time in Scotland in well over a year, saw the stage filled for the first time in the week.

As well as the Steinway grand piano for Huw Watkins, percussionist Colin Currie had brought along rather more than the simple “marimba” which the programme said he would be playing. It featured heavily, but so did other tuned percussion and the full complement of orchestral drums, blocks and cymbals. On the other side of the stage there was also the familiar full drum set, this one only a gong shy of qualifying as the Carl Palmer signature kit.

Two of the works the duo played had formed part of the recital they gave at the East Neuk Festival in the summer of 2019, Watkins’s own Seven Inventions and Joe Duddell’s Parallel Lines. There may be an echo of the music by Carl Orff that director Terrence Malick used in the classic Badlands in the filmic fifth of Watkins’s seven movements, while Duddell re-uses, heavily disguised, some tunes from the first “new wave” album my younger sister possessed. Although Blondie fans might be hard-pressed to pick them out, it is a very exciting piece of music, and Currie’s four-mallet technique on the marimba was a wonder close-up.

The programme began with a work two decades old in this partnership’s repertoire, Predicaments by Dave Maric, in which jazz-lovers could hear similarities to the Modern Jazz Quartet in both the vibraphone and the piano, and also included two solo works. Watkins chose The Harp of the North by Aberdeenshire’s Helen Grime, an atmospheric piece in which the instrument of the title is beautifully evoked at the top of the keyboard. Currie’s percussion solo saw him seated at that kit, thunder-sheet and all, for Dark Ground by Tansy Davies, which demonstrated the acoustic of the hall to perfection, as it built in complexity from a three beat kick drum motif.