Neil 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. The 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.
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.
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).Neil Cowley Trio