Lunchtime Saturday, the rain just about holding off on the second day of the inaugural Maltings' 'Jazz Weekend'. Berwick upon Tweed bustled as tourists mingled with locals out shopping, bed and breakfasts advertising 'no vacancies', the YHA on Dewar's Lane doing good business.
At two o'clock a near capacity Henry Travers Studio audience set off on a whirlwind tour of jazz piano from A to Z through one hundred years and more of the recorded history of the music. An almost impossible task, but if anyone could do it, Geoff Eales was the man. Billed simply as 'The History of Jazz Piano' Eales adopted the maxim 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. From Scott Joplin to Geoff Eales, and several superstar pianists in between, the chronology was laid out before us.
Ragtime Scott Joplin - Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer - played by Geoff Eales at the Maltings' Steinway piano - not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Eales introduced each piece to, one suspects, an audience more than familiar with both pianists and tunes performed. Jelly Roll Morton (Eales) playing Maple Leaf Rag demonstrated the new thing - 'swing'. It was clear to all that Eales had the history of jazz piano literally at his fingertips.
Bebop Spoken Here (October 2017)
"Recorded following the loss of his mother and influential jazz luminaries Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, Geoff adds enhanced sensitivity to his already hugely-respected musicianship to produce a career-defi ning set of piano-based instrumentals and songs. Geoff is joined by the premier team of vocalist Brigitte Beraha, trumpeter Noel Langley, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France, all of whom give stellar performances."
The Musician (Winter 2016)
"Transience is Welsh pianist/composer Geoffrey Eales' thirteenth release dating back to 1999. All of the words and music are by Eales, and he has taken this opportunity to express in music his feelings about how ephemeral human existence is in general, but also specifically of the passing within the past year of his mother, as well as that of pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.
All About Jazz (August 2016)
"As both a pianist and composer, Geoff Eales has an exquisite touch, delicate but purposeful. The dominant mood of these 12 pieces is quiet and reflective, yet his melodic lines are so clear that their gentle drama carries you along. The combination of instruments is very effective too. Bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France have recorded with Eales before and play prominent and active roles, while the voice of Brigitte Beraha and trumpet of Noel Langley make a magical blend. If this reminds you of the classic pairing of Norma Winstone and the late Kenny Wheeler, that's quite apt, since one of the pieces is called Remembering Kenny, and it features some stupendous playing by Noel Langley."
The Observer (March 2016)
"Geoff Eales (piano); Brigitte Beraha (voice); Noel Langley (trumpet, flugelhorn); Chris Laurence (double bass); Martin France (drums) Recorded 19 & 20 October and 19 November 2015
This is Eales' thirteenth album and probably his most adventurous to date. After a string of superb trio and solo piano albums the pianist steps out of this safe haven (if solo piano improvisations can ever be considered safe) to compose not just the music but lyrics as well to this deeply affecting and moving work. In doing so, he has also assembled his finest group, and after a recent tour to promote the new album it is hoped that he can retain the services of all concerned as a regular working unit.
Jazz Views (April 2016)
"Conveying evident themes of both the wonderment and fragility of life's journey, Geoff Eales' elegant new quintet release brings together respected musicians from the UK jazz scene.
Eales' full career has seen him working as a member of the BBC Radio Big Band; and, for many years, as studio pianist, arranger and composer alongside such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Shirley Bassey and Jose Carreras; and his subsequent jazz focus has produced no fewer than twelve album recordings, increasingly establishing his own original approach to composition and improvisation.
London Jazz News (May 2016)
"The versatile pianist and composer Geoff Eales has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages in recent years. I have reviewed recordings that have seen him performing in a variety of line ups and contexts ranging from solo acoustic piano "Invocations" (2014) to the fusion-esque electric five piece Isorhythm ("Shifting Sands", 2011).
The Jazz Mann(April 2016)
"There's something irresistible about Brigitte Beraha's mellifluous voice, uncannily redolent of two doyens of vocal jazz, Norma Winstone and Flora Purim. So perhaps that's why Geoff Eales chose her for his 13th album and his first using a vocalist. Chris Laurence and Martin France previously accompanied Eales on his 2009 album for Edition, Master Of The Game, and the talented trumpeter Noel Langley is a highly in-demand player on the UK jazz scene and beyond. So it's fitting that Eales has assmbled this quintet for an album dedicated to the memory of his late mother and two of the most significant musicians in British jazz, Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor.
Jazz Journal (July 2016)
"Brigitte Beraha's Babelfish project was responsible for one of my favourite releases of last year, the lovely Rainbows. So it's very welcome that Welsh keyboard maestro Geoff Eales, having decided to record with a vocailist for the first time, he should have chosen Beraha, whose vocal style - whether working with lyrics or wordlessly - draws regular comparison to that of Norma Winstone. Her presence here lends a gentle, ethereal glow to proceedings, which is entirely fitting since the album is very concerned with matters spiritual. It's dedicated to the memories of Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and to Eales' own mother, Valerie, who died seven months before the recording was made. Death casts its shadow then: "Sleep Eternal and "Gently Into The Night" are two of the titles. But the reflective moods explored across the 12 Eales earworm originals (he knows how to write a melody) ultimately feel more celebratory than anything else, and Noel Langley's trumpet work on "Remembering Kenny" is so stirring you might almost be tempted to think that the much-missed Mr Wheeler has returned for one last blow. "
Jazzwise (May 2016)
"This is pianist Geoff Eales twelfth album since walking away from the studios as a much in demand session players in order to follow his own muse and his love of jazz some fifteen years ago. The interim has produced many notable albums in the familiar trio format, but this is only his third outing in a solo piano setting, with all having a completely different agenda.
Jazz Views (November 2014)
"There's nowhere to hide when you go it alone as a musician. But Geoff Eales has nothing to fear from the exposed nature of a solo performance, recorded in a single day in the form of unedited single-takes. Eales has a protean talent: recent releases have seen him moving between classic European piano trio music (Master of the Game), full-on group fusion (Shifting Sands) and a globe-encompassing piano-flute duet (The Dancing Flute). But Invocation has Eales stripping things back to basics, at least in terms of instrumentation, and exploring the sources of is inspiration via 12 restlessly imaginative solo inspirations. 'Boogie Train' is an energetic slice of gospel-woogie, 'One Step from the Edge' takes its lead from Charlie Parker's 'Scrapple from the Apple', 'Back to the Root' is a blues that moves deftly between funk and swing while 'Dancing River' and 'In the Abbey', both inspired by memories of Wales, show the master at his lyrical, impressionistic best."
Jazzwise (December 2014)
"Geoff Eales should be familiar to anyone who has followed the UK jazz scene of the past couple of decades, but perhaps the pianist is not as well-known as his work merits. This disc of 12 improvisations for solo piano is the latest in a succession of fine recording projects that began in 1999, and is an impressive and enjoyable showcase for his virtues as both pianist and improviser. Although rooted in jazz, his frame of reference here is considerably wider, and much of the music might appeal equally to classical music listeners. As in his most recent handful of projects, the music is all his own, and each piece was recorded in a single take with no editing or patching. He is an instinctive melodist with a lovely touch and refined technique, and builds his improvisations with an unerring sense of purpose."
The Scotsman (November 2014)
"This is pianist Geoff Eales twelfth album since walking away from the studios as a much in demand session players in order to follow his own muse and his love of jazz some fifteen years ago. The interim has produced many notable albums in the familiar trio format, but this is only his third outing in a solo piano setting, with all having a completely different agenda.
Jazz Views (November 2014)
"Beginning with a thundering McCoy Tyner-like flourish this solo piano album by the prolific Welsh veteran modern-mainstreamer was recorded in April this year at Nimbus' Wyastone studio in Wales, the album quickly enough taking on an involving atmosphere. Tracks are inspired by subjects as varied as the Wye Valley, train journeys, the blues, and the Northern Lights, even if the contours of the faintly Jarrett-recalling improvisational arc are fairly uniform throughout. Eales is a virtuoso player, with an impressionistic touch, and there is an eclecticism in his approach that doesn't get in the way too much but draws on classical inspirations, for instance Debussy and Ravel, as well as the more overt jazz side that even alights on the bebop of Charlie Parker on 'One Step From The Edge'."
Marlbank (September 2014)
"Geoff Eales is one of the most versatile pianists on the British jazz scene, classically trained but also capable of playing in a myriad of jazz styles and idioms. I first encountered his playing in 2007 at the Brecon Jazz Festival when he presented an entertaining history of jazz piano paying homage to, and playing in the manner of, a variety of jazz greats from Art Tatum through Bill Evans to Keith Jarrett.
The JazzMann (February 2014) - For full review visit http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/geoff-eales-free-flow-and-the-dancing-flute/
To see Gareth Mclearnon's review of the Andy Findon / Geoff Eales British Flute Society Concert at the Royal Academy of Music in February 2014 please visit http://www.andyfindon.co.uk/PAN%20magazine%20RAM%20BFS.pdf
"This is not your typical Geoff Eales disc. Not that Eales has ever been particularly easy to pigeonhole : Master of the Game was classic European piano trio music ; Shifting Sands" was full-on quintet/sextet fusion ; The Dancing Flute, released only a few months ago, was a globe-trotting piano-flute duet disc. But this is his first improvised recording, and it's so avant-garde that 33 Records have had to set up a new label specially to release it. Well, even if that's not quite true, the recording has been chosen to inaugurate the new 33 Xtreme imprint which is dedicated to cutting-edge work, and the music on offer here certainly is adventurous.
Jazzwise (September 2013)
"Geoff Eales is one of British jazz's more dazzling, and most protean, talents. He's not voguish, however, and this new album, showing yet another side of his musical personality - it's subtitled The Flute and Piano Music of Geoff Eales - is unlikely to see him trending on Twitter. In that sense, it could be considered - like all jazz and jazz-related music these days - a failure. (He should work with Justin Bieber next time). But in all other respects it's a triumph, fleet of foot and light of spirit, although by no means unable to tap into deeper emotions. It helps that Eales has partnered himself with a fellow virtuoso, Andy Findon, a master of both classical and ethnic flute, and more than equal to the task of accompanying Eales on this 'musical travelogue' as it moves restlessly from Latin America, across Europe and off into the Middle East. Among the 13 originals dedicated to the 'life-enhancing qualities of the dance' there's some tango ('Farewell Patagonia') and waltz ('The Last Kiss' et al.); 'In the Pocket' is a little bit Irish, 'The Sad Little Geisha Girl' is pipingly Oriental. It's both subtle and big-hearted, rhythmically complex and emotionally pure - one for the feet and the head. "
Jazzwise (July 2013)
"Acclaimed jazz pianist Geoff Eales and renowned flutist Andy Findon have released a new album called "The Dancing Flute: the flute and piano music of Geoff Eales". The Dancing Flute is a lovely and exciting, jazz-infused album that you'll want to listen to again and again. This disc features thirteen of Eales short works for flute and piano.
Findon and Eales are masterful players - I was struck by how emotionally free their playing is.
The Flute View (June 2013)
"Though he's an outstanding Jazz pianist, Geoff Eales studied composition under Alun Hoddinott and he also pursued piano lessons with Martin Jones. He has a Symphony to his name and what does that sound like, one wonders. Not unsurprisingly there's also a piano concerto; dare one hope for an Eales recording of that? He has also carved smaller joints and this selection of thirteen pieces shows the lighter, more compact side of his compositional nature. The works are for flute and piano and celebrate the joys of the dance.
MusicWeb International (June 2013)
"'Shifting Sands' is an excellent example of intelligent fusion and an album that rewards repeated listening."
"Welsh born pianist Geoff Eales has been part of the British jazz scene since the 1970's. Now based in London he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz piano styles from Art Tatum through Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett to Esbjorn Svensson.He was a musician I'd always been aware of but it was his magnificent piano trio album "Master Of The Game", released in 2009 on Edition Records that really grabbed my attention. Brilliantly played by Eales on piano accompanied by the stellar team of Chris Laurence on double bass and Martin France on drums the album garnered a rare Jazzmann Five star review. Superb as the playing was it was the quality of Eales' writing that made the album truly memorable with each track telling a very personal story.
The JazzMann (June 2012) - For full review visit www.thejazzmann.com
"Geoff's ninth album, with a new band, is a tribute, as much as anything, to his versatility and open-mindedness. Although ostensibly a fusion group, it covers a wide range of moods with a particularly firm emphasis on rhythmic exploration and subtle dynamics. The styles include Eastern exotica on Shifting Sands, propulsive funk on Vindolanda, moody meditations with They Can't Harm You Now, a Zappa-influenced Ultimate Journey, gentle-paced balladry for The New Arrival and Horace Silver-like soul jazz on Dukey. The memorable tunes are all originals by the leader.
Jazz Journal (May 2012)
"Being something of a fusion freak I couldn't resist purchasing this latest offering from British pianist Geoff Eales. Here he features a jazz rock ensemble he has called Isorhythm which includes some well-known and some less well-known faces on the jazz scene.
All About Jazz (April 2012)
"Geoff Eales' Shifting Sands ( 33 Jazz ) is a departure for one of our most talented pianists, featuring Eales himself on Fender Rhodes as well as acoustic piano and presenting his band, Isorhythm, as close kin to Chick Corea's Return to Forever-onwards outfits. The music, all Eales's own, is replete with drama, powerful contrasts, all superbly realised on saxophone, electric violin, electric and acoustic guitar driven by a punchy, exacting rhythm section. Quite a contrast stylistically to his previous albums, although you can hear the same values being applied and a cracking band including saxophonist Nigel Hithchcock applying them to the standard repertoire on the simultaneously re-released Mountains of Fire ( Nimbus )."
Jazz UK (February/March 2012)
"As pianist/composer Geoff Eales explains in his liner notes, this is the fusion album he has been waiting nearly 30 years to make, since fronting the self-explanatory Electric Eales band in the early 1980s.
He also explains that 'isorhythm' refers to a 'principle of construction where a fixed rhythmic pattern undergoes a series of melodic transformations throughout the course of a piece', but knowledge of all the above is by no means essential to appreciation and enjoyment of this fiercely lively, intelligently programmed album.
London Jazz (December 2011)
"If you've been following the late blossoming career of magisterial pianist Geoff Eales, Shifting Sands will probably come as a bit of a surprise. Most of Eales' previous studio outings - not least 2009's outstanding Master of the Game - have been boldly emotional trio-based affairs ; the new disc, by contrast, features a quintet ( bumped up to a sextet on two cuts by the presence of Chris Garrick on electric violin ) and is pretty full-throated fusion. It's hardly a new departure for the main man, however, since he led a fusion band - called Electric Eales, naturally - back in the 1980's, and he shows a fine grasp of group dynamics throughout here. True to its name, the title track refuses to be pinned down, moving from a furiously Middle Eastern-influence motif to solo piano and back again to ecstatic wigout with everyone in the highly talented ensemble racing to achieve lift-off first. The gorgeously poised, more sombrely meditative "Five Steps from Eternity" gives Eales space to stretch out. But this album is about kicking out the jams and it's a real pleasure to hear Eales digging out a deeply funky groove on Fender Rhodes on the likes of "Hot Night in Vindolanda" and "Ultimate Journey". Move over, Chick!!"
Jazzwise (December 2011)
"Geoff Eales' last album, Master of the Game, was a masterful readmore of jazz trio performance, with Geoff joined by bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France. Never one for resting on his laurels, Eales' follow up album has the pianist making a radical switch in musical direction: Shifting Sands sees Eales moving in the genre of jazz-rock/fusion. Let's be honest - for many, jazz-fusion conjures up visions of loud, rambling musical explorations and players showing lots of technical prowess but little heart. Well, on Shifting Sands, Eales and his band Isorhythm, show that jazz-fusion can be exciting, intelligent and played with feeling
Author of The Last Miles (the music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991) (November 2011)
"Pianist Eales has created a truly delightful work on this new recording, with the nine-minutes-plus title track a beautifully composed suite which sets the scene in exotic style. There are echoes of the Spanish-tinged work of Chick Corea here ( itself much imbued with the Moorish influences on Spanish culture ). There's great inventiveness, sensitivity and musical depth in Eales' soloing on this track,and elsewhere on the album. His group is completed by Ben Waghorn on saxaphones and bass clarinet, Carl Orr on guitar, Fred T Baker on electric bass and Asaf Sirkis on percussion, with Chris Garrick featured on electric violin on two tracks. This is a splendid achievement with strong soloing from all the players and imaginative compositions from Eales."
www.jazzcamera.co.uk (October 2011)
"Welshman Geoff Eales may never have created this masterful music had he remained an accompanist for such wildly diversze stars as Tammy Wynette, Shirley Bassey and Jose Carreras. Jazz is richer for his decision.
The album's title refers to Herman Hesse's masterpiece The Glass Bead Game, which has also inspired the second track, Magister Ludi. That book is certainly a heady stimulus and Eales's response rises to the challenge, Magister Ludi having both majestic solemnity and flaring imagination.
Sydney Morning Herald (January 2010)
"Reinvention is in the air these days and pianist Geoff Eales has caught the bug. His "Master of the Game" (Edition) casts off any emulation of others as he aims for a personal (and successful) rebirth. All eight pieces are his, magisterial bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France the expert mid-wives."
Jazz UK (June/July 2009)
"Eales has always been a bold forager for material rather than a casual gleaner of unconsidered trifles. Who else would put Victor Feldman's A Face Like Yours on a contemporary record date ? That was the outstanding cut on "Red Letter Days", the trio disc Eales cut for Black Box with the then trio of Roy Babbington and Mark Fletcher right at the start of what has been a busy decade of jazz recording. Since 2001 Eales has been on 33 Records as well, but here he launches a new imprint with a beautifully considered performance, marked by his disciplined lyricism and sure touch. The leader gives equal weight to France - subtle and strong at the start of the title track - and to Laurence, who just sounds immense whenever he is featured; some of his plucked tones and arco accompaniments enter the room with with an almost physical presence. The Saddest Journey and Song For My Mother balance out the more upbeat tone of Inner Child and Awakening (try either of these on a jazz-piano fan and see who he comes up with), but the elegiac quality wins out near the end with Lachrymosa, dedicated to Esbjorn Svensson, one piano master tipping his hat to another."
Jazz Journal (June 2009)
"This CD with Chris Laurence (bass) and Martin France (drums) is a revelation. The trio's democratic approach references Bill Evans, and Evans's impressionism is reflected in several of Eales's originals, but his influences are wider than that. At home playing inside or outside, he's a natural improviser concerned with details of colour, mood and developing the overall arc of a performance."
Irish Times (April 2009)
"It seems to be Geoff Eales' fate to constantly invoke other pianists : Bill Evans for sensitivity, Keith Jarrett for clarity of tone, John Taylor for the symphonic voicings. But Master of the Game disproves the adage about old dogs and new tricks. The simmering insistence of Iolo's Dance and the sombre majesty of Magister Ludi unerringly recall the late Esbjorn Svensson. The dynamic sensitivity of the Chris Laurence/Martin France rhythm team also invite the E.S.T. comparison. Eales, truly master of the game, has never sounded more vigorous or lucidly lyrical."
Manchester Evening News (April 2009)
"For Master of the Game Eales has assembled a stellar new trio. Bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France are among the very finest exponents of their respective instruments and it comes as no surprise that this is probably Eales' finest album to date
The playing is excellent throughout with Laurence and France playing key roles. The bassist is brilliant with or without the bow and functions both as a superb accompanist and a consistently interesting soloist. France is a master of his craft, his subtly propulsive style just right for the music, his rhythmic shading and attention to detail exquisite. The interaction between the three players makes for genuine musical conversation. Master of the Game is a great team effort.
The Jazz Mann (March 2009)
"Eales doesn't regard himself as a late bloomer - one early trio he led appeared on Welsh TV when he was still in his teens. All the same, the fiftysomething pianist has only started recording in his own name in the past 10 years, and Master of the Game - which, if there's any justice, should establish him firmly in the jazz premier league - is his first to feature only original compositions. As usual, there's a strong emotional core to the material: this is engaging, stylishly urbane music but with dark, volcanic urges bubbling just under the surface. Bill Evans is an obvious influence - but which contemporary piano trio leader can honestly claim to be without some debt to him ? - while the spirit of Keith Jarrett is in evidence on the haunting "Magister Ludi", inspired by Herman Hesse's magnum opus, The Glass Bead Game. And there's a bit of E.S.T. in "Lachrymosa" - after all, it was written as a tribute to the late Esbjorn Svensson. But the overriding sense on Master of the Game is of a famously "eclectic" pianist who's become a master of his influences and begun to speak in a voice that is distinctively and unmistakably his own."
Jazzwise (March 2009)
"Conceived as an antidote to the somewhat hackneyed standards-oriented piano trio, this band – completed by bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Martin France – was chosen by pianist Geoff Eales to explore a wide range of self-composed material ('to push the envelope' as he puts it).
He could not have chosen better partners: Laurence, with both bow and fingers, is at once an eloquent, intensely melodic soloist and an utterly dependable accompanist; France is adept both at straightforward timekeeping (his pistol-crack rimshot playing in this mode is exemplary) and at more discursive, decorative kit work.
The Vortex (March 2009)
"Eales has long been a master of the game, if the game is about applying the methods of the great jazz piano virtuosos to a mixture of traditional standards and popular contemporary themes. But this is a big stride forward for him - partly because his double bass and percussion partners (Chris Laurence and Martin France) are way ahead of "the game" and partly because the original material seems to free Eales and let him open things up. The opening Iolo's Dance is a riff-driven vehicle for all three soloists, while Laurence's magisterial bowed sound imparts an appropriate weight to the anthemic Magister Ludi. The ballads are sumptuously couched in lustrous chords and seductive melodic turns, built around the the intertwined voicings of piano and bass. And the faster pieces exhibit a surging freshness. He sounds here like a master of an old game who is hunting for a new one."
The Guardian (March 2009)
"Belgrade, the lively, super-friendly capital of Serbia ( and of the former Yugoslavia ), hosted one of the major, Newport-associated, European jazz festivals throughout the 1970's and 1980's. There followed a 14-year hiatus of terrible Balkan strife and isolation from which the new democracy is still emerging. The festival was revived by local enthusiasts in 2005, modestly at first with limited funding but each successive year has seen growth in support, sponsorship and musical quality. The wholly successful 2007 event, packed into a week with many of the finest US, European and local musicians and with the emphasis on current high form and consistent creativity, promises a rapid return to the glory days.
Jazz Journal International - January 2008
"This seventh solo outing sees Eales exploring fresh Keith Jarrett-esque territory. The album consists of an afternoon's worth of solo improvisations based almost entirely on original melodic material, and largely presented in the form of unedited first takes. The only standard here is Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz's "Haunted Heart", which is presumably included because if its appropriateness to the album's overriding mood - and apparent theme, since this album plays like a musical progress through emotional torment, culminating in the cosmic release of "Eternal Dance". Along the way Eales shows his mastery of an impressive array of styles, from the soulful groove of "Gospel Truth" to the bluesy riffing of "The Black Path", and from the wild free jazz of "Seizmic Shift", on which the Welshman does his level best to make the earth move, to the dramatic chordal clangour of the opening of "Dreams to Dust", a bittersweet tune that unfolds its tale of woe with hypnotic grace."
Jazzwise (May 2008)
"Geoff's previous albums have featured mostly standards with rhythm section support. On his latest CD he is alone on a good, well-recorded Yamaha instrument playing his own compositions (apart from the neglected Dietz/Schwartz ballad, Haunted Heart), in a relaxed and highly inventive manner. The combination of prodigious technique, deeply-felt emotions and unhackneyed creative is wholly engaging.
Jazz Journal International - December 2007
"'An afternoon of solo piano improvisation' is what is documented by this album from pianist Geoff Eales; mostly first takes have been used, the better 'to capture the spirit of the moment rather than edit the life and soul out of the music in the search for absolute perfection'.
The pieces' titles - the album consists of eight improvisations and one standard, the Dietz/Schwartz ballad 'Haunted Heart' - provide a good illustration of the range and depth of Eales's stylistic reach: 'Gospel Truth', 'Prayer', 'When Words are Not Enough', 'Eternal Dance' and so on indicate Eales's sources in everything from blues and gospel to post-bop and free jazz, and from folk to the classical tradition.
Vortex Jazz Club -2008
"Regular touring and constant interplay has turned the Eales trio into a finely-tuned mechanism. Eales himself has always been an accomplished player, renowned for his keyboard animation, wholly committed to jazz now after years in more commercial music. He knows the piano canon, style for style, but hankers for a personal signature, his performances a compound of originals and standards, all delivered with an attractively pent-up abandon. He's the first among equals here, with Roy Babbington's sublime bass playing a key element in this brilliant album's soundscape, as are drummer Mark Fletcher's expert accents and fills. Eales's originals are often harmonically canny, typified by the reflective "Ballad For The Lost Souls", and he's good at reshaping familiar songs like "How Deep Is The Ocean?", making it sound more melancholy than usual. Hints of Evans and Tyner, yes, but it's mostly Eales you hear. This is easily the best of his recent releases."
Jazz UK - March/April 2007
"Right from the opening track where bass and drums have their share of the soloing action it becomes apparent that this is a very special piano trio. Their controlled energy, intuitive interplay and absorbing inventiveness produce fresh-sounding jazz of a high order. It is a joy to hear players who are so well matched and mutually inspiring.
Jazz Journal International - October 2006
"As anyone present at the trio gig Geoff Eales played recently at the Vortex will know, he is one of the UK's most vibrant pianists, capable both of injecting life into standards and of infusing his original compositions with vigour and energy.
Vortex Jazz CD Reviews - 2006
"The word "energetic" might not be the first adjective to spring to mind in describing the legacy of the Jazz pianist Bill Evans, who died 25 years ago this week. A stooped, scholarly looking figure who crouched low over the keyboard and produced some of the most introspective and harmonically challenging Jazz of the 1960s and the 1970s, Evans revolutionised the piano-bass-drums trio by encouraging his fellow musicians to join in a musical conversation rather than simply accompanying him.
The Times - Sept 2005
"Solo piano is the ultimate test and Geoff Eales passes with ease. Like the stand up comedian, the solo pianist has no place to hide: technique, imagination and invention are all ruthlessly exposed. "What is this Thing Called Love?" is a tour de force not just with the fabulous technique deployed but with the structure and the various devices used to maintain interest throughout the journey through the piece. Geoff's exuberance is there no matter what the tempo because it is a part of his creative energy that you can sense whatever the tempo. The jazz audience is often very conservative. People like musicians to fit neatly into categories, Geoff does not do that. He delights in technique not for its own sake but because it allows him to be clear. Some pianists' styles are determined by their lack of technique, Geoff's is determined by his vast experience and the fact that he has a technique that allows him to play most of what comes into his mind. In a recent interview Geoff said that he wanted to play fewer pieces from the American Songbook. Those tunes have strength and an endurance that have made them vital to improvisers from every generation. An improviser like Eales needs the audience to see the subtlety of his designs and that is difficult to see when the original structure is not known to the audience. The strongest pieces on this CD are from the Songbook tradition. The limpid impressionistic introduction to "Here's that Rainy Day" adds to the romanticism of the piece. A similar mood is captured in the Bonfa piece at the start of the CD. "All the Things You Are" undercuts expectations and gradually reveals the melody after some very complex variations. It is all played at a surprising and apt slow tempo. "My Romance" opens in meditative mood and then gradually moves into a different funky tempo. It is typical of the unexpected delights that you get throughout the album. The best of the original pieces is "Funkin' at Greasy Jo's" which has a catchy sustained rhythm that sounds great and cries out to be arranged for a larger ensemble too. If you have any love for solo piano jazz played with passion and intelligence by an original this is a CD you should seek out."
Jazz Views- March 2005
"The world of commercial music simply couldn't function without phenomenally accomplished musicians like Geoff Eales.Without knowing it, you will have heard his keyboard playing on TV themes, film sountracks, advertizing jingles and so on. Fortunately he has started to record some of his own music and this is his first solo effort. To say that it covers a lot of ground is putting it mildly. From the delicate tracery of "No More Tears" to "Funkin' at Greasy Jo's", Eales conducts a kind of guided tour of pianistic moods and styles. A fascinating hour's music"
The Observer- January 16th 2005
" This is a superb set covering as it does jazz classics such as 'Round Midnight, standards like My Foolish Heart and self penned compositions such as a tribute to Bill Evans to highlight just 3 of the 11 stunning performances. If you get the chance to catch Geoff and his trio don't miss out, as it will be a memorable experience. Whatever CDs you buy this year include this, as talented musicians like this don't grow on trees. For information on Geoff why not visit his website www.geoffeales.com "
In Tune International - April 2003
" Leader Geoff Eales pays tribute to virtually all the really important, innovative pianists in modern jazz here with the notable exception of Bud Powell. Monk, Evans, Tyner, Hancock and Jarrett have all provided inspiration in abundance and most are honoured here with a composition for, or associated with them. His own personal and distinctive sound is perhaps best demonstrated on the lyrically intense version of Blame It On My Youth where Geoff's touch at the keyboard is light and flexible but extremely expressive. Well, You Have To is a lively romp honouring Monk, although for a real flavouring of that iconoclastic master of the keyboard you need to go 'Round Midnight of course, even though Geoff's reading is original and highly personal...Stokin is a first rate bouncing blues.
Jazz Journal International - April 2003
" NEW HEROES... I am told we need 'new heroes', so let me introduce an unsung hero... Geoff Eales, a gifted home-grown, totally uncategorisable pianist-composer who burns with terrifying passion for the music. He used to sit in the hot seat with the BBC Big Band from where he would launch a piano solo like a scud missile in a shower of sparks. While we took cover under the sofa to avoid the falling debris from the ceiling, we gasped, astonished, as Eales' propelled the band's standard charts into the stratosphere through sheer mind blowing inventiveness. Eales' first trio CD, Facing The Muse (Mainstem) with bassist Roy Babbington and drummer Mark Fletcher, is a further revelation. While Eales pays tribute to his inspirations, his approach to a dusty standard such as Let's Face The Music And Dance is fasten seatbelts, hang on and prepare for the ride of your life. The originality of his direction on The Theme From Mash, Days Of Wine and 'Round Midnight " takes your breath away as Eales feverishly rewrites all the rules. In haste to create these new heroes, let's not overlook our unsung heroes? "
Jazz at Ronnie Scott's- March/April 2003
" On hearing Eales, one of the first things that becomes clear is that you are listening to a pianist with an understanding and appreciation of the entire jazz piano tradition, who allows his flow of ideas to stem from his whole range of influences rather than playing in a particular 'bag' for a particular genre of repertoire.
Musician - March 2003
" Eales has never disguised his respectful devotion to masters such as Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Chic Corea and Herbie Hancock, and his glossy technique as a straight jazz swinger is formidable... Eales's arranging talents reinvent familiar material and his sense of urgency, his fresh ideas and his enthusiasm are infectious. The M.A.S.H. theme is elegantly reworked, and Stokin', chorded by Jarrett and Tyner, builds into a driving solo. Blame It On My Youth is a poignant interplay with Roy Babbington's bass, while Days Of Wine and Roses glitters with casually scattered flourishes. Monk's almost inevitable 'Round Midnight opens with an unexpected abstractness against Mark Fletcher's cymbal sound, and it develops with a distinctly un-Monklike suaveness... This is a gracefully honest set of its kind. "
The Guardian- January 17, 2003
"Geoff Eales is a hard swinging pianist who is totally committed to the trio concept, and on this his third album (and first as leader for Mainstem) takes us a tour de force through eleven selections comprising of originals and some songs from the Great American Song Book.
Eales is a PhD music graduate from my home town, Cardiff, and this however is my first encounter with his music, although it transpires that my father taught Geoff during his school days in the mid-sixties! Joining the BBC Big Band in 1978 staying for four years, he has since worked with artists such as Rosemary Clooney, Teddy Edwards, Buddy Tate, amongst others.
Jazz Views- March 2003
"Geoff Eales and the Arts Centre Steinway concert grand piano is a fantastic combination. Throw in Babbington and Fletcher and the Cambridge Theatre's acoustics and the result is the best jazz trio sound since Oliver Jones visited Southport back in 1991. For good measure add a touch of magic from the 'Piano legends' and you have a jazz experience no one in the audience will forget in a hurry!
Southport Melodic Jazz Club
" Pianist Geoff Eales holds a special place in the hearts of jazz enthusiasts and in this super concert, featuring Roy Babbington (bass), Mark Fletcher (drums) and Jim Mullen (guitar), he paid tribute to the giants of jazz piano.
Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Errol Garner and Thelonious Monk were among those whose talents were celebrated here and the audience were enthralled.
South Wales Evening Post
" This evening was the end of a 5-date tour of a new and innovative show produced by Rayner Bourton. The somewhat sparse audience possibly due to sell out shows at both the Rep & Hippodrome enjoyed every last note of what was a most memorable evening.
The concept was a brilliant one and the jazz excellent and quite a revelation for those who had not heard Geoff Eales' wonderful playing before. Catch his 2 CDs "Red Letter Days" and "Mountains of Fire" on Black Box Music for proof of his skilful artistry.
Encore - May 2002
" I always enjoy gutsy, positive piano players and Geoff Eales certainly falls into that category. This is my first hearing of this fine artist.
Eales is a robust, forceful player who makes full use of the resources of his instrument - he sounds completely at home solo and his two handed strength reminds me a lot of the confident sound that Oscar Peterson and Ray Bryant in particular produced without rhythm section backing.
"This is a follow up album to "Mountains Of Fire" which I had the pleasure of reviewing well over a year ago. According to the liner the earlier disc was "a vehicle for breathing new life into a series of well-known standards, this CD offers the listener far more in the way of totally original material. To counter-balance this I have included some old favourites." This serves as a pretty accurate summation of the fare contained herein as expressed in the leader's own words. Geoff Eales is rapidly coming to occupy the territory in this country which is inhabited in The States by such worthies as Oscar Peterson, Monty Alexander and Kenny Barron. That is to say they each epitomise the modern mainstream whilst managing to impose their own styles on the music, and, at the same time, doing so in a completely tasteful manner. Eales is possessed of a sure and varied touch and has sufficient technique to express his ideas in a lucid manner. One of the refreshing aspects of his playing is the fact that he does not allow his facility to dictate his delivery. He does not, at any time, resort to glibness or coast to fill space. Eales has a well-developed sense of harmony and has obviously listened to such as McCoy Tyner and Cedar Walton, not only does he use their varied, often dense voicings, but there is also a great sense of drive in this area of his playing. He has an abundance of melodic invention and is the type of pianist ( as indicated by his CV ) who is more than comfortable in the many situations faced by the modern, working piano player. His compositions are interesting and often touching, and his versions of the better known numbers are assured and yet personal. It is always a pleasure to hear Jim Mullen and this excursion is no exception. Roy Babbington and Mark Fletcher are quite simply as good as you would hope to find on their chosen instruments and fulfil their roles here with style and confidence. This is the sort of disc that will probably come as a most pleasant surprise to the listener who normally focuses on the modern/mainstream of American pianists."
"Another varied and interesting programme from Geoff who is tastefully accompanied by Roy Babbington on double bass and Mark Fletcher on drums on seven tracks. Jim Mullen joins the trio for two tracks and there are four solo piano tracks.Geoff has the ability to mix a semi-classical-plu-McCoyTynerish approach to his playing, particularly evident in "I Should Care" and the almost concerto treatment of "But Beautiful" in the solo tracks.The Trio opens this very listenable CD with Victor Feldman's composition "A Face Like Yours" and Jim Mullen makes his masterly presence felt on "Hanna's Riff" - a finger-twisting blues by Geoff - and on a swinging version of "So Long Sadness". The overall balance of original and standard material makes Goeff Eales one of the unsung heroes of jazz music and composition and his super 67-minute CD amply demonstrates his talents. ".
"The opening "A Face Like Yours" (by Victor Feldman) offers an augury of good things to come, with Eales at once vigorous and rewarding. As noted before, there is something of Oscar Peterson's expansive dash in Eales' piano work, with plenty of room for dynamic turbulence and bravado. In contrast, "I Should Care" starts imposingly before settling into a thoughtful, soberly voiced exposition, flavoured with classical motifs and sudden percussive bursts. Babbington's lovely walking bass powers "Killer Jane" which turns into a down-the-line swinger, full-bodied in the Peterson manner. "They Didn't Believe in Me" is taken solo, Eales disguising the melody via some subtle harmonic choices. "Hanna's Riff" is up-tempo, Mullen phrasing with Eales on its jerky theme, the pianist building a strong solo before Mullen muscles in, with Fletcher as his look-out man.Best known as a singer's accompanist, Eales deserves top marks for this well-planned set. He's clearly at ease in a jazz situation and has his own distinctive way with the material, the ease of touch and keyboard command out of the top drawer. There's nothing hackneyed here. Recommended."
"On first reading the titles on this disc one could be led to expect another 'middle of the road' re-hashing of standard tunes with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. Far from it, this disc contains a varied and contemporary series of readings of a choice selection of tunes.
"I could tell you from the very first bar that I was going to enjoy this album. The trio launches vigorously into one of Lennon & McCartney's best tunes, and Geoff Eales captures its delicacy while swinging it powerfully, aided by Roy Babbington's double bass and (especially) Mike Smith's explosive drumming.
Crescendo & Jazz Music
"Geoff is a very well-established pianist with a CV that reads like a 'who's who' of show business and here he turns in a CD of well-chosen and cleverly-arranged and executed Trio and Quartet jazz.
He is accompanied by Roy Babbington (bs) and Mike Smith (dms) in the Trio and by Laurence Cottle (ebs) and Ian Thomas (dms) plus Nigel Hitchcock (alto sax) in the Quartet. The inspired arranging of the material includes some very inventive intros, notably to Here, There and Everywhere, Like Someone In Love, Autumn Leaves and I Fall in Love too Easily and Geoff's superb playing shows just how good you can make a McCoy Tyner influence sound.
"If you read Nick Lea's glowing review of Geoff Eales latest album in last month's review pages and were sufficiently impressed to place a rush order then you will surely want to add these back catalogue recordings to your collection.
Frankly it beggars belief that a pianist of Eales calibre had to wait over 20 years before making his first recording as leader. Not that he was exactly wasting his time: the sleeve notes tell of a distinguished career with the BBC big band, as well as session, TV and theatre work with the peerage of showbiz and light classical performing artists.
Jazz Views- April 2003