The Neil Cowley Trio: Loud Louder Stop

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
The Neil Cowley Trio: Loud Louder Stop To win the BBC Jazz Album of the Year poll is a laudable achievement, but might it be a double-edged sword? The Neil Cowley Trio won the prestigious British award for Displaced (Hide Inside Records, 2007) and joined trumpeter Colin Steele and saxophonists Gilad Atzmon and Tony Kofi as recent winners whose careers have received a boost as a result.

The thing is, pianist Cowley's trio is art-pop without vocals, e.s.t. unplugged and minus the devilish improvisation, jazz without borders. It's enjoyable in a "don't know what to call this but I like it" kind of way. Had it won a BRIT award, UK's the pop equivalent, the audience and the rewards would undoubtedly be much greater. It may yet happen, as Loud Louder Stop has obvious crossover appeal.

The opening number, "His Nibs," with its grandiose, recurring theme hammered on the keys, already marks the trio as something out of the ordinary, sounding as it does like the procession fanfare for a mad king. Repetitive chord riffs, powerful and majestic, are Cowley's bread and butter, and evoke Philip Glass with a few thousand volts up his rear end, and this is acoustic music remember.

This is a hard trio to pin down. Cowley's language is chord-based—they mark time and carry the melody—and improvisation is tantalizingly restrained, though here and there glimmers of Thelonious Monk-like logic cameo briefly, like little historical ripples. The tunes are the thing, and they are undoubtedly strong. The swirling, elegiac, almost classical piano intro to "Scaredy Cat" gives way to a delicious bobbing melody. The vaudeville romp of "Ginger Sheep" sounds as if Madness had composed the soundtrack to a Charlie Chaplain caper (and it could surely inspire serious moshing in appropriately fitted venues). "We Are Here To Make Plastic," with its helter skelter riffing and choppy chords, sounds like Hiromi in full flight. In truth though, influences, particularly of a jazz root, are hard to discern throughout the album.

Lyricism and boldness, always melodic, happily co-exist within these songs, typified by the epic "Clumsy Couple," with its grand theme and spacey, lullaby interludes floating on a lovely bowed bass. The trio are fired up on "Captain Backfire." Cowley's forays outside of chords, and imaginative, tumbling runs of short duration, exist within and never overpower the greater melody. Original though it is, it is difficult to imagine this trio, this music which both defies and straddles categories, without the influential recordings of the late pianist and bandleader Esbjorn Svensson.

There will be those who yearn for more improvisation from the pianist, more overt display of his undoubted virtuosity; those of a jazz bent that is. Other listeners, who would not necessarily rush to the local jazz club, will appreciate the originality of music that doesn't pretend to be anything other than melodic, anthemic and dynamic, whatever name you want to give it. Don't be fooled by the jazz award. Don't be put off by it either.

Track Listing: His Nibs; Dinosaur Die; Scaredy Cat; Ginger Sheep; Clumsy Couple; Captain Backfire; Well; We are here to make Plastic; Synaesthesia Traffic; Streets Paved with Half Baguettes PT2.

Personnel: Neil Cowley: piano; Richard Sadler: bass; Evan Jenkins: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Cake | Style: Beyond Jazz


More Articles

Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read One Minute Later CD/LP/Track Review One Minute Later
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2017
Read JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800° CD/LP/Track Review JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800°
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Ephimeral CD/LP/Track Review Ephimeral
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Fly or Die CD/LP/Track Review Fly or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Binary" CD/LP/Track Review Binary
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Functioning Broke" CD/LP/Track Review Functioning Broke
by Doug Collette
Published: July 3, 2016
Read "Il sistema periodico" CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Brian Bromberg" CD/LP/Track Review Brian Bromberg
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 28, 2016
Read "On Hollywood Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 6, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!