In recent years, a number of piano trios have done an admirable job filling the void left by the untimely passing of Esbjorn Svensson
and, by consequence, his pioneering trio, e.s.t. The Tingvall Trio
, more than most, along with Sebastian Liedke
, Marcin Wasilewski
and Colin Vallon
, have all overseen efforts that encapsulate a similar style and spirit. Notably, these trios are all European-based, as is the UK's Neil Cowley Trio. Virtually unknown in the United States, Cowley's longstanding group has captured the essence of the e.s.t. sensibility, but with an innovative and adventurous style that reflects its own unique voice. The trio's third release, Radio Silence
, is an outstanding collection of original and varied pieces.
Cowley being a prominent contributor on pop sensation Adele's first platinum-selling recording, 19
Columbia, 2008), is likely to impress a broader demographic of American music fans On Radio Silence
, the trio's most valuable assets are also the most intangible qualities its music possesses. From the minimalist opening of "Monoface" to the unhurried beauty of the title track, the group displays an organic synergy that imprints varying styles with a unique identification.
The briskly paced "Vice Skating" combines a slightly off-kilter melody with the classical influences of Cowley's musical upbringing (at age 10, he performed a Shostakovich piano concerto at Queen Elizabeth Hall). The diverse Cowley doesn't ignore his pub band history either; "Gerald" and "Hug the Greyhound" are spiked with a dancing energy that exudes the trio's enthusiasm for a good romp. Accompanying Cowley's fast-paced keyboard work, bassist Richard Sadler propels the momentum while drummer Evan Jenkins
alternates between being a subtle presence and a dynamic force.
Notwithstanding its relative anonymity on this side of the pond, Cowley's trio has two previous and highly regarded collections; Displaced
(Hide Inside Records, 2006) was the recipient of the 2007 BBC Jazz Award
for Best Album. While much of American jazz languishes in the safe nostalgia of the twentieth century, a number of European jazz community members like the Neil Cowley Trio continue to forge ahead into more challenging territory. The qualities may sometimes be intangible but the rewards are great.