Owls are often seen or portrayed as the most sagacious of creatures, wisely holding sway on a branch and quietly gazing into the night. Images such as that readily appear in the mind as Conversations With Owls unfold.
In listening back to this music after the session, drummer Jeff Cosgrove was taken back to his days living near the Potomac River in West Virginia. While there, Cosgrove would often find inspiration in the activities of an owl perched in the trees in an old graveyard. The wisdom, power, grace, and self-possessed nature of the owl clearly made a mark on his psyche, for it's those characteristics that shine through on this album.
Conversations With Owls finds Cosgrove working with two vaunted figurespainterly pianist Frank Kimbrough and deep-thinking bassist Martin Wind. The resultant music is every bit as contemplative and absorbing as one might expect from such a combination of players. There are silvery sounds to admire ("The Owls"), tense and playful presentations ("Excitable Voices"), and deep and expansive takes on old chestnuts ("My Favorite Things"). There's darkness and uncertainty to be found, as Wind's spine-chilling arco work, Cosgrove's scampering brushes, and Kimbrough's embrace of chaos ("Forest Hunters") wreak havoc, but there's also pure beauty in the picture; Kimbrough's piano droplets twinkle through the speakers ("Stacks Of Stars") and the trio emphasizes the virtues of calmness and patience during an entrancing performance of a Gershwin classic ("I Loves You, Porgy").
Cosgrove's last collaborative trio dateAlternating Current (Self Produced, 2014)was compelling because of the mercurial nature of the music and the danger that lurked around every corner. This one is even better because it's enthralling without the constant threat of danger. Sure, Cosgrove and company tussle and push past the boundaries of convention every now and then, even delivering a raucous sendoff where Kimbrough appears to briefly explore variations on "(I'm) Confessin' (That I Love You)" over a loose and jittery bed of rhythm ("The Shimmer"). But there are also slowly sweeping ballads and gentle musical embraces here. It's that balance between stylistic and emotional poles that helps to keep things interesting.
The Owls; Stacks Of Stars; I Loves You Porgy; Excitable Voices; Forest Hunters; My
Favorite Things; The Shimmer.
Jeff Cosgrove: drums; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Martin Wind: bass.
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