Neil Cowley Trio, Face of Mount Molehill

Joe Muggs

By Joe Muggs

on 01.23.12 in Reviews

Neil Cowley Trio

Given Neil Cowley’s high-profile work – playing keyboards for the likes of Adele, Gabrielle and smooth soul-funksters the Brand New Heavies – you probably wouldn’t expect anything especially radical from his piano-led trio. And in a sense you’d be right: On this album, there are plenty of soothing string parts buoying up the gentle repetitions and rippling melodies of the piano, bass and drums, and a distinct lack of crazed jazz wig-outs or in-your face discord. It is a very pleasant album.

A refreshing listen from a high-profile pianist

That’s no putdown, though. The sweetness of the record is incredibly uncontrived – it never feels like it’s trying too hard to please, but instead like the musicians are just revelling in capturing and exploring a mood on each track. On the slower pieces like “Meyer,” “Distance by Clockwork” and “Siren’s Last Look Back,” this creates some deliciously evocative results, perfect themes for bittersweet scenes in films as-yet unmade. Faster tracks like “Rooster Was a Witness” and “Fable” get into a springy groove and run with it, but those grooves are quirky, as close to Bartok or motorik Krautrock bands as to anything in the jazz/funk continuum. More often still, the mood shifts between the contemplative and the repetitious bounce, as if an idea is allowed to develop until suddenly it takes on a life of its own. It might be pleasant, but its pleasure is in its stimulation: In a very real sense, it’s a refreshing listen.