Artist: Neil Cowley Trio
Album: Touch And Flee
Genre: Contemporary Jazz
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Kneel Down [00:05:54]
Gang Of One [00:03:12]
Couch Slouch [00:04:03]
The Art [00:03:01]
The trio occupy slightly more familiar territory on “Winterlude” in which they play around with a slyly funky odd meter groove . It’s tantalisingly brief but captures some of the band’s celebrated mischievous spirit and is great fun.
“Sparkling” also references familiar ground as the group explore and develop a theme based around Cowley’s insistent piano arpeggios. It unfolds slowly, the harmonic landscape subtly shifting throughout in a way that recalls their primary inspiration, E.S.T.
The Cowley trio have always had a way with a groove, but these days those grooves are getting more complex. Take “Gang Of One” which combines something of the urgency of the band’s early years with the increasingly sophisticated rhythms they choose to deploy nowadays and includes some engrossing and enthralling dialogue between Cowley and Jenkins. “Couch Slouch” explores similar territory and demonstrates that Cowley has lost nothing of his knack for coming up with memorable tune titles.
However “Touch and Flee” is also about variety and contrast. “Bryce” is lush and melodic, one of the most straightforwardly romantic things Cowley has yet written. His luminous piano playing combines a classically honed touch with a melodic sensibility sharpened by his work in rock and pop. As a child prodigy Cowley was performing Shostakovich at the Southbank at the age of ten before turning his back on the classical world to work with the bands Brand New Heavies and Zero 7. Jazz stardom came later but Cowley remains an in demand session musician and his contributions to Adele’s enormously successful albums have ensured that he is one of the most listened to pianists on the planet.
“Mission” introduces itself with the ping of electronica which is subsequently woven into the piano led instrumental that follows. Featuring Horan on what sounds like electric bass it’s another piece that teases through its brevity and constitutes little more than a vignette. Nevertheless it’s highly effective and reminds me of the instrumental interludes on David Bowie’s “Berlin trilogy” of albums.
At six and a half minutes “Queen” is the longest track on the record and arguably its centre piece. The music develops quietly and organically out of Jenkins’ softly brushed intro. This is a genuine trio performance, thoughtful and interactive with the three musicians perfectly attuned to each other’s sensibilities. Cowley outlines delightful melodic sketches with Horan and Jenkins adding splashes of colour as the music opens like a flower. It’s a long way from the (relatively) youthful brio of the band’s early albums and is a piece that demonstrates a real musical maturity.
Closing track “The Art” is a delicately introspective piece for solo piano that possesses the sonorous spaciousness of an ECM recording, a fitting valediction to Cowley’s most mature recording to date.
The trio will be touring the UK in late September and throughout October 2014. They will be playing music from “Touch and Flee” but I suspect that the live shows may be significantly different to the record with plenty of the old crowd pleasing energy to keep the fans happy. Performances are said to be due to include such old favourites as “She Eats Flies” and “Rooster was a Witness” and I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more of Horan as a soloist – if there’s one disappointment about the new album it’s that we don’t really hear enough of him. That plus the record’s relative brevity and the revolting cover art – yes that really is Horan’s beard.