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Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican

The music is melodic and yet pays homage to the piano’s percussive roots.

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]N[/dropcap]eil Cowley Trio play a brand of modern jazz that defies conventions.

It rocks without being fusion, and manages to simultaneously be both classic and contemporary – comparison with the little-known Dave Brubeck album Two Generations of Brubeck wouldn’t be misplaced. Neil Cowley by Chris PatmoreThe music is melodic and yet pays homage to the piano’s percussive roots, and, most importantly, it is both piano (quiet) and forte (loud). This range was perfectly demonstrated to a packed Barbican Hall on Friday 3 October.Neil Cowley Trio by Chris Patmore

The show opened with a complete recital of their latest album Touch and Flee. While the pieces may have been unfamiliar, the virtuosity of the playing, combined with Cowley’s genial rapport with the audience won them over, especially with the promise of “the hits” following an intermission.

After the break, the trio returned to the stage looking more relaxed, having discarded some of their more formal attire (possibly in the realisation that they were in The City and it was dress-down Friday). With the more familiar tunes the applause went from appreciative, verging on polite, to rapturous.

There were quiet contemplative pieces, such as ‘Box Lily’ (dedicated to his daughter) followed by loud rocking pieces such as the brilliant ‘His Nibs’ with its stunning tempo changes. This range was perfectly displayed in their encore with ‘She Eats Flies’, which built to a blistering crescendo that left the audience wanting even more.

While Neil’s piano playing was the star of the show, Rex Horan’s bass and Evan Jenkins’ drumming definitely had equal billing, keeping the melody and rhythm in check with their own distinct and vital voices.

At one point in the show Cowley explained that, because they have no singer, the music has to tell the story, and it is fair to say that words can do no justice for the music.Neil Cowley Trio by Chris Patmore

If you can’t catch them live on their current tour, buy an album or even just a track from iTunes or Amazon (I recommend His Nibs off Loud Louder Stop).

[button link=”http://www.neilcowleytrio.com” newwindow=”yes”] Neil Cowley Trio[/button]




2 Replies to “Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican”

  1. Joe Lillington says:

    As a young contemporary jazz pianist myself I have taken substantial influence from the style of Neil Cowley. His suggestion that the melodies tell the story in the absence of lyrics is important in the genre of his music, and it should be noted that in credible modern music, these melodies seem lost. The captivaton of emotion that musicians feel is required to create is done so commonly through the means of lyrics, and there is no better example of an alternative than the way Neil Cowley writes his music.

    I was lucky enough to witness his performance at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival in Gylnde Place last year, and for me his performance was the most captivating. I will be attending his concert tomorrow in Brighton, and I am looking forward to hearing his new album live, along with the hits from his previous albums.

    If you are unfamiliar with his music, I urge you to take as much time as you can to sit back and enjoy the unique journey that his powerful rhythms and heart-warming melodies will take you on.

    • Sean says:

      Have a great time at the concert, Joe.
      Also, check out some Nils Frahm if you haven’t already done so. Different musical mileu, but some very similar angles of approach at making a piano talk.

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