Touch and Flee
Neil Cowley was an unknown to me, I heard – and liked – debut album, Displaced – among the originals that sparkled, a shiny, funky brand of piano-trio jazz, was a reworking of the pinball music from Sesame St; hey, a little gimmicky, but they nailed it – so all was well.
Next thing Cowley’s supplementing any folly with the big gig as pianist for Adele, a couple of cameos on some other rock/pop stuff too (Emeli Sande, Birdy, Stereophonics) but all the while the Neil Cowley Trios is dropping decent jazz albums every other year. So now we have Touch and Flee and there’s an emotional resonance here that I haven’t previously heard on Cowley’s albums. It’s as if he’s gone back to those important, influential piano albums – Jarrett at Koln, Bill Evans having those Conversations with himself, Brubeck and Peterson. Where previously Cowley was always entertaining here there’s some real substance, the groove is still tight and bright and this is as much a case of hearing instrumental Ben Folds Five as any true classic jazz trio – but on tunes like Sparkling and the hugely affecting Queen Cowley and crew have really dug deep. You’ll still dig it, there’s a modern version of swing here with just enough adherence to tradition but there’s also some gorgeous stare-out-the-window wonder about the stateliness and prettiness of these melodies.
It’s concise too – could work as polite dinner jazz if that’s your thing but offers so much more beyond.