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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Neil Cowley Trio


Hidelnside HIDECD001 [55:45]


Little secrets
How do we catch up
Pair of teeth
She eats flies
Degree in intuition
Thats my space
Clown Town
Pinball number count
Kenny two steps
Pillar to post
Taller than me
How do we catch up (The Emily Mix)
Neil Cowley (piano)
Richard Sadler (bass)
Evan Jenkins (drums)
Recorded 22nd-23rd August, 2005, Real World Studios, Nr. Bath

At the age of ten Neil Cowley performed Shostakovich at the Royal Festival Hall; later he played keyboards with bands such as The Brand New Heavies and Zero 7. Now here he is leading a hugely impressive jazz trio, playing mostly his own compositions - ‘Pinball number count’ is by Walt Kraemer, everything else on this debut album is by Cowley – but drawing on an obviously very considerable knowledge (though that word is too cerebral - Cowley’s ‘knowledge’ in his fingers as much as in his mind) of a range of musical traditions.

I don’t mean to diminish Cowley in any way if I say that the listener will hear echoes of Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal and Brad Mehldau; that there are times when one thinks of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio or The Bad Plus; that this is obviously the work of a pianist with a classical training; that his time in soul and funk has also left its mark on his music. We have passed the time when the distinction between ‘originality’ and ‘influence’ could have any very precise meaning in the world of jazz. Suffice it to say that Cowley’s eclecticism is fused by a powerful and distinctive musical vision of his own, and that with Sadler and Jenkins he forms a remarkably cohesive trio whose commitment is evident in everything on the disc.

There’s playing of tender lyricism (notably on the title track); there are many rapid changes of tempo and many very telling silences; there are some percussive explosions on the keyboard; there are some thoroughly funky rhythms and inflections; there are some powerful climaxes; there are moments of gentle beauty; there are lots of striking keyboard figures. It adds up to trio music that is vigorous and passionate, but also witty and intelligent. The interplay between the instruments is impeccable without ever sounding at all cold or over-prepared.

In short, this is very much the modern state of the piano trio. Just occasionally I would have liked to hear the trio stretch out a bit more, explore an idea or a pattern at slightly greater length. But, save for such a reservation, this is very impressive, enjoyable music; it deserves to find many hearers.

Glyn Pursglove

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