13 November 2014

Neil Cowley Trio - Touch & Flee

So on my odyssey of 2014; we have arrived back in the land of Jazz.  I first came across the Neil Cowley Trio on a radio show I used to be part of called Alternation.  One of the other presenters Jay played one of their songs, the title of the piece escapes me at the moment but it was interesting piece none the less.  The Neil Cowley Trio was formed in 2006 after Neil Cowley's previous project Fragile State, over the last eight years they have been gaining a very good reputation.  The band consists of Evan Jenkins, Rex Horan and of course Neil Cowley. Neil Cowley has also worked with such artists as Adele, Sterophonics, and Professor Green amongst others.  To be honest, outside what I have been reading on their website and Wikipedia; I do not have much more to say at this point, so let’s see what their fifth record is all about.

Starting off this album is "Kneel Down"; this track is very interesting for a few reasons.  Now when it has came to jazz, I have mostly heard it done with brass instruments or full bands; apart from the track I heard on the radio show, I have not heard it by a piano trio.  With a subtle sound of the piano, the soft drums and gentle bass, you are introduced to the main section of the album which feels like a tune I have heard before I started to review this album.  The music is very competent and it does hold the attention for a while. But after hearing new Jazz albums from Polar Bear and Gogo Penguin, this feels slightly safe as an opening; it is a good tune, but it is not sailing into uncharted waters.  “Winterlude” is next and this is a sub 2 minute tune which could have been built to so much more, in places it sounds like it is going to fall over but then it comes back in again.  With drummer ... holding the tune together, Mr Cowley and Mr ..... are given licence to roam but only for a short period of time.  Track three on the record is “Sparkling” and this number is special.  Building on a simple piano riff/tune (pick whichever is more applicable) the band take the audience on a journey that showcases each member of the band at different points.  The traditional leanings of NCT mean that it is not as in your face, but it is a beautiful song that will have fans in aware and new listeners such as me taking interest.

“Gang Of One” has a loose feel, the band seem to going in one direction before it turns another way and then changes again; but all this is done in such a way that you are not sure if the band knew where they were going or if it was on purpose.  However, it does hold my interest again and on repeat listening the charm of the song did begin to emerge so I would file this number as a prime example of the word – grower.  “Couch Slouch” once again has the drummer holding the song together; it is the numbers like this on the album which I enjoy the most.  Because the drummer is not marching off like a mad hatter (something in jazz music if uncontrolled has resulted in the death of some albums for me), then the other instruments are given more time to roam.  Granted, bass player .... has his time keeping the song in check which we have a drum pattern, but as .... such a good Jazz drummer, you have no fear of the endless wondering of repetitive beat syndrome appearing.  “Bryce” is the sixth track on offer here and slows down what is already a slow burning album.  The song for me does not have a lasting impression sadly; it sort of drifts to no point of conclusion and falls through the cracks a bit. 

“Mission” is another number which shares similarities to “Winterlude”, it is over a little bit too soon.  Starting off with a strange synth section, the band then introduces a slice of chilled out Jazz that is incredible engaging.  Sadly though, it is criminally short as well – I do wish it was long, but alas it is not meant to be.  “Queen” is the penultimate track on this record, this does not have a feeling of majesty and it is not a tribute to Freddie and Co as far as I can see, but then titles sometimes have very little to do with the song on offer in places.  What it is though, is an elegant and refined number that brings the album back on course; it is like liquid caramel for the soul and is incredibly easy for the listener.  It is also an idea that was given time to grow and it is another highlight for this album. This leads us onto the final track of the album – “The Art”.  This mournful number is very solemn and quiet; it ends the album with a sense of sorrow and reflection that is in keeping with the overall tone of the record.

As a sort of new comer to the Jazz genre in recent years, I might not be the best person to have reviewed this record.  I do believe that with the right person reviewing this would have been a very highly marked album.  However, it has fallen to me – overall I am impressed with what I have heard here, there is a few numbers which felt like they were cut short just as they were getting interesting and a few numbers that sort of drifted into nothing without going anywhere.  The talent of NCT is beyond reproach and to be honest I do enjoy what I have heard (I have also been advised to check out their earlier records by one of my friends who I am trying to convince to join us...he hinted).  It is a good record overall, but with just a few changes it might have been an amazing record (for me at least).  I will be following what the band do next, as they are to say the least an interest band.

7 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Sparkling

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Neil Cowley Trio website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link so you can listen to the album

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