CD Review: Neil Cowley Trio - Live At Montreux 2012

These highly touted jazz artists make their Montreux debut.
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Neil Cowley has made quite a name for himself, both through his own music as well as his session work. The 2013 UK Jazz Artist Of The Year gained experience playing with the likes of Brand New Heavies and Zero 7 and, more recently, he played piano on both of Adele's smash albums, 19 and 21, exposing his playing to a wide audience, even if they didn't realize it was him. In 2012 while on tour for The Face Of Mount Molehill, Cowley and his crack band made their debut appearance at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival. The show was recorded and makes up the CD, Neil Cowley Trio -- Live At Montreux 2012.

For this show, the Trio, which includes Cowley on piano, Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums, was accompanied by a string ensemble consisting of Julian Ferraretto and Miles Brett on violin, Helen Sanders-Hewett on viola and Alex Eichenberger on cello. The music is jazz, but with touches of pop and rock thrown in.

The show opens with "Lament," from The Face of Mount Molehill. This solo piano piece reflects its title well with its stark nature. Another Molehill track, "Rooster Was A Witness," is a more up-tempo offering. The drums and piano lock together, forming a hypnotic pattern and violins accompany this jazz-infused pop song.

Cowley channels his inner Vince Guaraldi on Radio Silence's "Hug The Greyhound." The track is a playful romp with fine piano and drumming throughout and intricate time signatures. "Box Lily," from the same album, is a striking, dramatic ballad that pauses midway to shift gears, as if the band willed it to change direction midway.

Jazz and rock sensibilities merge on "The Face Of Mount Molehill." This driving track has piano, drums and violins working in unison, forming a powerful riff. Replace these instruments with distorted guitars and it would translate equally well. The show closes with the 13-minute "She Eats Flies." Cowley and the band show off their considerable chops in this powerful closer.

While this was the group's first trip to Montreux, one would imagine it won't be their last. Neil Cowley Trio -- Live At Montreux 2012 shows a group on top of their game, willing to push musical boundaries in a live setting.