Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kit Downes Trio: Quiet Tiger

Kit Downes Trio
Quiet Tiger (Basho Records; 2011)
Kit Downes (piano)
Calum Gourlay (bass)
James Maddren (drums)

James Allsopp (sax)
Adrien Dennefeld (cello)

Quite simply--not what I expected. After the delicious Golden, debut from London's Kit Downes Trio, I was expecting a similar mellow, introspective outing. But after Downes work with both Neon Quartet and more importantly Troyka, I should have expected the new album Quiet Tiger to be a bold and imaginative statement of intent. is.

The British scene as been dominated by a few new/young names over the last five years (Seb Rochford, Neil Cowley, Tom Cawley, Liam Noble and Kit Downes among others) that are delivering very impressive sets. Kit Downes Trio have made that step to the next level look very easy with Quiet Tiger. The trio's use of sound and space on this recording is expansive and thoughtful. They use every bit of their surroundings to create distinct soundscapes.

"Tambourine" with it's funky but dark groove still plays on the earlier Keith Jarrett/Brad Mehldau influence Downes has, but as the tune moves forward it really becomes the Kit Downes Trio's original vision. Each member delivers wildly impressive solo on this piece. "Tambourine" is post bebop/post modern dream that captures a lot complex elements and turns them into a simple experience for the listener.

"...With A View" is a ballad that moves peacefully all the while demonstrating Downes unique character on the keys. The addition of James Allsopp as guest musician on sax adds a level of intimacy that hearkens back to Golden but still capturing a the forward direction of Downes new material.

"Wooden Birds" and "Frizzi Pazzi" both show a more experimental and free flowing side to Downes. "Wooden Birds" sees the trio reaching and improvising more than you may have heard before (even live). With Gourlay becoming the real standout on this track with some impressive manipulation on the bass and work from guest cellist, Adrien Dennefeld. "Frizzi Pazziz" is Downes just letting loose. It aggressive, playful but all the while well structured. "The Wizards" is a big bold piece with Allsopp acting as Coltrane to Downes, McCoy Tyner in their interplay.

"Quiet Tiger" closes out this phenomenal set with incredible resonance. The opening chords from Allsopp's clarinet are deep yet spacious. Downes allows the group to create the atmospherics here and joins in towards the final moments adding to a lovely, melodic and introspective tone.

Quiet Tiger is more than just an impressive step up from the brilliant debut Golden. It tells the jazz community that The Kit Downes Trio has a well of ideas and are utilizing this diverse thoughts a pulling them into well focused pieces. All of which will make Quiet Tiger one of the best albums of the year for most jazz fans. Especially all of us at JazzWrap.

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