A piano trio but not as you know it Jim - cello, plucked and bowed, rather than bass, a sprawl of percussion rather than conventional kit and fittingly given the unusual small group format there was a lot of beyond the blue horizon thinking too from pianist Nikki Yeoh. Oh, we first heard Nikki back in the 1990s when the pianist was a member of Courtney Pine's band. Far more recently we heard her at the Barbican when Chick Corea invited her to the stage as a special guest. Here in a completely different guise all these years on with her roaming Café Oran trio Shirley Smart proved significant on cello both as a rhythmical forcefield but also capable to taking an improvising journey all on her own. Percussionist Demi Sabat Garcia steered the ship through Mediterranean waters.
And by the end of the 75-minute set he was certainly in the zone in his understated way, whether prodding a cymbal with his finger or caressing the skin of his frame drum or stoking an earthen pot to squeeze out another beat. The theme of the set was the music of French Algerian composer Maurice El Medioni, a composer suggested, Nikki told us, to her by BBC broadcaster Max Reinhardt. And there was a lot more besides in the remit of the set. And the biggest surprise was Nikki's vocal on Bob Dylan's 'Hurricane' from 1976's Desire - pistol shots may not have rung out in the Crazy Coqs night but suddenly Nikki was Patty Valentine in the lower hall. She had everyone up on their feet by the end and she even relayed a joke Django Bates trots out ''there's nothing I like less than audience participation'' as she cajoled everyone up. There was a lot of power in Nikki's interpretations of the El Medioni pieces and she roamed widely beyond the core of the pieces to show her fantastic improvisational sense of poise and purpose. SG
The word's out: Nikki Yeoh above. The trio return to the Soho club in October.