As the saying goes, many a good thing comes in threes and Neil Cowley’s trio is a prime example. Their previous album Loud, Louder, Stop earned many a mighty star rating from the music press and their approach of “music for the heart and feet” goes a long way to challenge those who think that British Jazz is stuck somewhere between the likes of Jamie Cullum and the cheesiness of The Fast Show‘s recurring visits to their Jazz Club.
Pianist Cowley, together with bassist Richard Sadler and Evan Jenkins on drums, return on a new label for this follow-up, and the trio’s wealth of experience has resulted in an intriguing jazz session. They work splendidly together and Cowley’s talent as a pianist is beyond question; his deft use of juxtaposing chords and musical phrases should not work on paper, but grabs you immediately. There is also a willingness to incorporate shades of different musical styles that will make them an easier proposition to those with an aversion to stereotypical jazz noodling.
The opening track Monoface is a tightly written piece built around a piano riff that wouldn’t be out of place on any rock album. It’s full of vibrant discord and forms a bold mission statement. It’s a tough act to follow for the rest of the disc; thereafter, things step down a gear with the title track, a slow-burning piece with a more sedate and moody tone. It’s still superbly played and recalls classic Blue Note sessions, but it sets the album on too even a keel; you might start to yearn for more of the perky anarchy of its beginnings. Despite this, you can still relax, lean back and wallow while the trio work their magic.
Some tracks show a sense of humour and fun, but with mixed effects; Gerald is amusingly bouncy but the tone of the album as a whole receives a blow with Hug The Greyhound, a track whose boogie-woogie riff sticks out like a Jools Holland-shaped thumb. It’s a strange mis-step that throws the action off kilter, but everything manages to recover before the end.
The trio play in a more traditional vein than the recent jazz avant-gardism of Led Bib and Portico Quartet, so this might not be the place to look if you’re after such examples of wild invention. However, if your tastes are for something professionally made but with a jagged edge, then this disc should do the trick.