Neil Cowley Trio – Radio Silence (2010)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 48:45 minutes | 616 MB | Genre: Jazz
Official Digital Download – Source: Naim/HighResolutionAudio | Digital booklet
Radio Silence is the sound of a band fully comfortable in their unique sonic skin. And if an album is simply a snapshot of a work in progress, then this is a perfect portrait, capturing Cowley and his co-conspirators in the right place at the right time. This is the record that he has been working towards, documenting the magical empathy of a unit, who, with thousands of hours under their belt have learnt to breathe and listen as one.
Described by Cowley as music for the ‘heart and feet’, Radio Silence shifts effortlessly between moments of poetic grace, rip-roaring riffs and Chaplinesque ditties that reminds us that for all his many influences, Cowley’s music is as British as ‘Test Match Special’, warm beer or a bacon sarnie. After all, it is Cowley who played the elegiac intro to Adele’s London hymn Hometown Glory and likewise, his own music is just as rooted in where he comes from. This is music born in London pubs, on stage at Glastonbury, in suburban side streets and the banter of the tour bus, with results that are as enthralling, heart-warming and gripping as the very best in contemporary music.
Take for instance, the gorgeous title track which invokes the sudden and stark realisation, that someone you love is no longer close to you. It is a deceptively simple but highly effecting tune propelled by the bands intuitive group interplay and conjures moments of sheer beauty. Elsewhere, Gerald is an affectionate portrait of a geeky friend and part-time guitarist who likes to ‘wig-out’ at the weekend, while the epic, blissful Portal expresses a child-like sense of wonder before the cosmos. Vice Skating is a lyrical tour-de-force and the raucous Hug the Greyhound is partly inspired not only by the impossibility of such an act, but is also a wry nod at his own manic energy levels, and it is this restless drive that pushes Neil Cowley Trio towards greatness.
There’s little doubting Neil Cowley’s credentials (he performed a Shostakovich concerto at the Queen Elizabeth Hall aged just 10) but the pianist has faced some gentle criticism from the jazz world for not cutting loose from his stylish, hook-laden, groove-based awnings in recent years. But as elegant and catchy as this third album from the ex-Brand New Heavies keyboardist is, especially on the glassy, contemplative opener Monoface, it’s the playfulness bursting from the piano ace’s fingers that should capture the imagination here – and prove he’s not scared of getting fresh.
Along with some delicious flashes of the minimalist, ambient ideas picked up while training as a classical pianist, baring themselves as silvery piano motifs on the terrific title-track, Vice Skating and glacial album closer Portal, it’s Cowley’s feverish flights of fancy that really stand out. Similar in style to the striking piano play that marked out the highlight of his 2006 album Displaced, the tumbling lunatic Clown Town, and those covers of Revolution No 1 and Revolution No 9 he recorded a few years ago, Cowley is channelling his improv spirit with real refinement.
When his music breaks into a massive grin, like it does on the thumping joyful rocker Gerald, with its furiously repetitive piano riff that snags the mind, and on the almost cartoonish Hug the Greyhound, which sees him hammering wild yet complex piano notes as if he’s racing the lean, galloping groove to the finish line before falling over it in an exhausted heap, this is undeniably compelling stuff. And Cowley plays his improv style another way, too. On Stereoface, his light, percussive melodies and gently freeform ideas dot the soft groove-based funk patter brilliantly.
01 – Monoface
02 – Radio Silence
03 – Vice Skating
04 – A French Lesson
05 – Gerald
06 – Desert To Rabat
07 – Stereoface
08 – Hug The Greyhound
09 – Portal
Neil Cowley – Piano
Richard Sadler – Bass
Evan Jenkins – Drums