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Golden is the first album by the Kit Downes Trioand it provides plenty of evidence to support the growing reputations of these three young musicians. The trio, led by pianist Kit Downes, has been together since 2005 when its members were in the early stages of their studies at the Royal Academy of Music. The quality of writing and performance on this album so soon after the players' graduation demonstrates their huge potential and ensures that the album itself is one of the finest debut recordings of 2009.
Downes wrote seven of the eight tunes, with bassist Calum Gourlay contributing "Roots." Drummer James Maddren has no writing credits, but his distinctive percussion style is central to the trio's soundsomething which is most apparent on the title track where his hypnotic and controlled drumming is almost counter-intuitive but strikingly effective.
Golden opens and closes with two extremely beautiful tunes: "Jump Minzi Jump" and "Tom's Tune." Both pieces are characterised by lovely, delicate melodies that are immediately accessible but endowed with enough depth and complexity to repay repeated listening. "Jump Minzi Jump" does lose focus in its mid-section before Downes returns to its melody line but "Tom's Tune," dedicated to Downes' tutor and fellow pianist Tom Cawley, stays strong throughout with Downes' piano weaving in and out of a swinging and seemingly effortless groove from Gourlay and Maddren.
The musicians are capable of powerful and intense playingon "Power and Patience (the bear)" for examplebut they excel in more restrained and delicate compositions where their ability to display emotion and empathy belies their relative inexperience. "Madame" is a prime example of this qualitya "love song with no words" according to Downes' liner notes, it opens with Gourlay's simple but emphatic bass line before Maddren and Downes enter and Downes' piano takes charge of the tune. There are no unnecessary flourishes from any of the musicians: every player is precise, delicate, and supportive of the others and the result is a triumph.
Each of these musicians is already in constant demand and is building up an impressive resumé. Talented and versatile musicians such as these deserve this success, but hopefully this group will remain a priority for all three of its members. Golden is a genuine pleasure, and hints strongly that there is more great music to come from the Kit Downes Trio.
Track Listing: Jump Minzi Jump; Golden; Homely; Power and Patience (the bear); Madame; A Dance Took Place; Roots; Tom's Tune.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.