Between Rock and Jazz- Catchy and Interesting!June 20, 2013By Joe S. See All My Reviews"Coming to this album blind and not knowing anything about the Neil Cowley Trio, I was not excited. My experiences with live jazz albums havent been positive ones. I was expecting long, overindulgent solos, poorly amplified bass features, tons of applause interruptions, and jams that would just never end. To my pleasure and surprise, none of these things happen on this album. Though a lot of these pitfalls simply arent part of the trios style, a lot of the credit goes to the producers who were able to make an album of great sound quality. The Neil Cowley Trio consists of Cowley on piano, Rex Horan on bass, and Evan Jenkins on drums. Joining them in this performance, uniquely, was a string quartet. This performance features most of the tracks from their fourth studio release, The Face of Mount Molehill, which also featured a string quartet. Moving between the studio album to the live performance, the ensemble lost some of the recording subtlety, but added a rawness and humanity that only happens in a live performance. This album is an energetic and interesting work in the space between jazz and rock music. A lot of these tracks sound like pop songs- but with the words removed and the harmonic and rhythmic complexity cranked up. The melodic ideas are direct, the harmonies are crunchy at times, and its a very catchy performance altogether. You cant necessarily hum the tunes in your head afterwards, but youll certainly be tapping your feet. There is some real rhythmic complexity in a lot of their tunes, but its not enough to turn off a casual listener. What surprised me about this album was the lack of traditional improvisation through solo breaks. Part of this is naturally the logistics of the group- its hard to coordinate solos between a group of seven on stage- but part of it is their affinity for a more direct, almost verse-chorus structure in their tracks. The improvisation in this album was directed toward serving the individual track, which I really appreciated. Standout tracks for me were Hug the Greyhound and Fable for their weird harmonies, rhythmic complexity, and cool improvisation. Slims stood out to me because the violin featured and was able to employ some extended techniques. My biggest issue with this album is that I feel the string quartet was criminally underutilized. When the quartet would do a weird effect or punctuate a melody with their playing, it breathed such a great energy into the album, but these moments were too few and far between. Instead of opening the album with a piano solo (Lament, even though I loved it), couldnt Cowley have written a short piece for the quartet alone? All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this catchy and interesting album. I couldnt help but tap and groove along almost the whole time. I would recommend this album to fans of jazz and rock music and will continue listening to whatever Neil Cowley has coming up next."Report Abuse
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