Neil Cowley Trio
2011 / Naim Jazz Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Radio Silence by the Neil Cowley Trio has been a jazz hit in Great Britain for at least a year, but was just recently given a full release in the US (11/11) on the Naim Jazz Records label. Sometimes brash, and sometimes graceful and elegant, pianist Cowley brings an extensive background in classical, pop, rock, and jazz to the Trio which also includes Richard Sadler on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. As a child, Cowley studied classical music at the Royal Academy and performed a Shostakovich concerto to a full house at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall at the age of 10. He went on to perform with Brand New Heavies and Zero 7 before being hired to record with Adele on both of her hit albums. Radio Silence is the third release by the Trio, following Loud! Louder! Stop! and Displaced. Cowley himself describes this as “music for the heart and feet,” which sums it up rather succinctly. The nine tracks are varied in mood and intensity, giving a good indication of what this Trio is capable of.
Radio Silence begins with “Monoface,” a piece that starts out very quietly and mysteriously until the drums lead into a full-tilt explosion of sound. As the piece evolves, it brings in subtle themes that weave into the prog rock-like main theme, effortlessly going from very hot to cool and breezy and back to smokin’. The title track, my favorite, begins gently, in something of a ballad style, leaving open spaces between some of the notes and creating a calm, easy mood. At the halfway point, the rhythm picks up a bit and the piece gradually intensifies to a peak and then calms back down to the beautiful main theme. “Vice Skating” has a dark intensity that can be mesmerizing. “A French Lesson” is one of the shorter pieces, and is playful and lighthearted. “Gerald” is a musical portrait of a friend and part-time guitarist who must keep things rather lively whenever he makes an appearance! I would assume that “Stereoface” is the counterpart to the earlier “Monoface.” “Stereoface” also begins quietly and builds, but it never reaches the explosive stages of the first song. With passages that are rich and beautiful and others that are catchy and rhythmic, this is another favorite. “Hug the Greyhound” is as joyful and fun-loving as its title implies. “Portal” is a fascinating two-part piece that begins with very spare piano, reverb, and the feeling of vast open space. The first few minutes are more ambient than jazz, but the music gradually intensifies and becomes very “big.” It then returns to the quieter, more magical side, to rebuild energy. At the 7-minute mark, the song fades away to nothing, and there is uninterrupted silence for almost two minutes before the piece resumes. This time the music stays on the more gentle side with the energy level building and subsiding, closing with a whisper.
Radio Silence is a fascinating listening experience if you are looking for something more experimental and edgy. It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Check it out!
November 17, 2011