All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

23

Neil Cowley Trio: Spacebound Apes

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
The impact of ambition and competitiveness in a creative pursuit can be double edged. As a spur to action, an attempt to fulfil potential it is surely a positive—think of the mutual admiration and competition between say Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney in the mid-1960s for example. But there are times when a competitive nature can be destructive—a need always to be "right," to force your ill-considered views on others irrespective of the facts and, frankly, to be a bit of an entitled drag. Neil Cowley, let's be quite clear, is not a drag. Not even slightly. He has just made what could just be the album of his career, pushing himself way beyond the commonplace 'album as a collection of tunes played live' and the occasionally seen ' album as collection of tunes linked to a vague scarcely defined concept' into the territory of a full blown multi-media smorgasbord. Quite how Mr Cowley thinks he is going to make any money in these austere times for our music is anybody's guess, but his ambition must be sincerely and heartily applauded.

So on top of the humble CD and download there is a website, tumblr blog gradually revealing the back-story to lead character Lincoln, sheet music book with animated illustrations by DC Comics artist Sergio Sandoval, and an enjoyable if slightly goofy knockabout video for rumbustious lead track "The City and the Stars." The story of Lincoln is the conceptual thread that is intended to link the eleven pieces together—at the time of writing the blog [http://lincolnsdiary.tumblr.com/] has yet to rise above the intriguing, but there is clearly much more to unfold. From a reviewer's perspective anything that dares to differ from the daily procession of releases claiming that what a soul great really intended was for their music to be recast as elevator music on a home organ, must be celebrated.

If "The City and the Stars" video, featuring the band as gang in matching outfits traversing London's tube network, were viewed in isolation it might suggest a return to the banging trio dynamic of Cowley's excellent second album Loud Louder Stop from 2008. Yet that would be to miss the musical breadth and subtlety of the album—remember that Cowley has a varied and individual path outside of jazz from the downtempo dance music of his own band Fragile State and Zero 7 to session appearances with the likes of Adele and the Brand New Heavies. Opener "Weightless" is a good example of this breadth —moving from the opening electronic pulse into a chiming piano line, suggesting disorientation, the piece builds cinematically over deep, sub-bass notes and electronic effects into an atmospheric solo from Cowley. It's a great ambient jazz piece that is a million miles from the propulsive trio style that made Cowley's name. "Hubris Major" is another piece in this vein, although here Cowley's main piano theme is more 50 Words for Snow than say Moon Safari.

Mention must also be made of the delicate, almost hymnal "Grace" a mostly solo piano piece, albeit one where the piano sound is heavily treated to emphasise the feeling of isolation, alienation and melancholic emotion. In many ways the collection has more in common with the cutting edge modern classical fusion of say Max Richter's Sleep than say Keith Jarrett, but have no doubt of the quality, delicacy and improvised elements of Cowley's playing. If the driving rhythm and oblique piano riff of "The Sharks of Competition" is underlaid with an effect that sounds like a dial-up modem or ZX Spectrum, the emotional pull of album closer "The Return of Lincoln" alone should make questions of genre purity irrelevant. This is music of the highest quality and might just be the finest album of Cowley's career to date. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Weightless; Hubris Major; Governance; The City and the Stars; Grace; Echo Nebula; The Sharks of Competition; Duty to the Last; Garden of Love; Death of Amygdala; The Return of Lincoln.

Personnel: Neil Cowley: piano; Evan Jenkins: drums; Rex Horan: bass; with guest appearances from Leo Abrahams: guitars, FX.

Title: Spacebound Apes | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hide Inside Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Neil Cowley Trio: Spacebound Apes

Neil Cowley Trio:...

Hide Inside Records
2016

buy
Spacebound Apes

Spacebound Apes

Hide Inside Records
2016

buy
 

The Face of Mount...

Metropolitan Room
2012

buy
Radio Silence

Radio Silence

Naim Label
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read UHHM CD/LP/Track Review
UHHM
by John Bricker
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Decoy CD/LP/Track Review
Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "Black Flower" CD/LP/Track Review Black Flower
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 3, 2018
Read "Marseille" CD/LP/Track Review Marseille
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 26, 2017
Read "Fish Out of Water (Deluxe Edition)" CD/LP/Track Review Fish Out of Water (Deluxe Edition)
by John Kelman
Published: June 15, 2018
Read "Postcard Collection" CD/LP/Track Review Postcard Collection
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 21, 2018
Read "Serenade for Horace" CD/LP/Track Review Serenade for Horace
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "Der Dichter Spricht" CD/LP/Track Review Der Dichter Spricht
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 7, 2018