Monday, April 9, 2012

Neil Cowley Trio: The Face Of Mount Molehill

Neil Cowley Trio (group)
The Face Of Mount Molehill (Naim Records; 2012)
Neil Cowley (piano)
Rex Horan (bass)
Evan Jenkins (drums)

The Neil Cowley Trio have quietly and arguably made themselves the most important and exciting group in Britain right now.

Yes, one of my other favourites that I will discuss later in the week (Phronesis) are also in the same category. Neil Cowley though seems to have made his group's compositions large and entertaining which in turn gives them an even broader appeal. And that makes The Face Of Mount Molehill one of the best albums of year.

"Lament" opens the album with a soft emotional plea. Cowley takes the listener on a journey that is mostly reflective and poignant. "Rooster Was A Witness" feels like an E.S.T. piece with big themes and arrangements. New bassist Rex Horan provides muscle and versatility that adds to Cowley's "all things are possible with music attitude" writing style. This all allows Jenkins to really cut loose with abandon.

"Fable" booms into the frame like something from Joe Jackson's best years. It's upbeat, fierce and well balanced. Kept on one fast tone, "Fable" makes a statement that Neil Cowley is here to change things around this session. 

"Skies Are Rare" returns us to Cowley's classical origins but with big ballad overtures. The piece undulates and maneuvers slowly with grace and beauty. But it also shows Cowley's panache for diversity. The title track is another moment where you might expect a vocalist to drop in but it is an appeal and highly enjoyable piece - uptempo and a chorus that sticks in your head for hours later.

"Siren's Last Look Back" is short but beautifully closes out this session on a deep yet sparse note. It's has an ambient quality to it that really carries you out on a dreamlike state.

The Face Of Mount Molehill is a long journey through the experiences of life's ups and downs. And Neil Cowley has once again proven his trio is one of the most diverse in England and possibly Europe at the moment. The gap between all others and the revered Esbjorn Svensson Trio may soon shrink if Cowley keeps this up. Highly Recommended.

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