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Neil Cowley Trio Norwich Arts Centre Norwich, England April 11, 2008
Jazz pianist Horace Silver once released an album called Jazz Has a Sense of Humor. No one on the contemporary scene seems to embody that statement more than pianist Neil Cowley and his trio (Richard Sadler, bass; Evan Jenkin, drums). His piano style could be seen as the antithesis of the E.S.T. school, with Cowley proffering more of a rock-oriented approach but with moments of beauty nonetheless, and some funky and crucially funny grooves.
Live on stage Neil Cowley appears totally relaxed, totally embraced by the music. His formidable technique truly swings, and his interplayboth musically and verbally with band and audiencewas a joy. Cowley seems to take delight in his often drum-heavy, piano-pounding (but thankfully not a la Jamie Cullum) take on the piano trio putting many more conservative listeners off, recalling the now well-known story of how a less than impressed critic unwittingly gave them the title of the new album (Loud.. Louder... Stop), a reminder of how audiences are prone to leave half-way through their gigs.
Thankfully, such was not the case on this occasion, with everyone seemingly loving the concert as much as Cowley and his excellent musicians themselves. With his roots in dance music, Cowley knows how to capture the intensity, anger, joy and laughter of such kinetic music, wrap them in 21st century melodies, where rhythm is crucialand if the drums sometimes seem to drown out the piano, that's the point and throw this mix out to an audience no doubt much wider than that of his contemporaries.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.