Neil Cowley Trio - Cargo, London 2/4/08

Last night The Neil Cowley Trio launched their new album Loud…Louder…Stop! at trendy Shoreditch club Cargo, not usually the kind of venue you’d expect to find a piano trio playing. But then they aren’t your typical piano trio. As the audience files in there’s a building sense of excitement and by the time Cowley and Co. take to the stage the room is jammed full. “Aren’t you going to cheer us on?” Cowley quips wryly. This sets the tone for the evening to follow, music matching Cowley’s playful, fun and excitable personality. Neil Cowley Trio - Cargo, London 2/4/08
Opening with the pulsating ‘Dinosaur Die’ the trio build gradually from sparse beginnings to all out chunky rock. They then launch into ‘Kenny Two Steps’, from their debut record ‘Displaced’. The trio delves deep into the backbeat with Cowley supplying monkish off-kilter lines to contrast with the earthy groove courtesy of Richard Sadler on double bass, and Evan Jenkins on drums. Tight rhythmic stabs near the end of the tune bring laughs and cheers and Cowley seems to be quite enjoying himself. But there’s much more to come.

The mystery of the dinosaur perched lovingly on the piano is solved when Cowley informs us it’s called “Dino Krall”, the band mascot perhaps? ‘Clumsy Couple’ follows, with Jenkins’ soft bowed bass bringing a weightless feel to the piece and providing beautiful moments of contrast. By the fourth piece the trio have hit their stride. The destructive repetitive patterns sound reminiscent of experimental/jazz outfit The Necks but it’s as though everything has been put into overdrive, all on an acoustic piano. ‘Clown Town’ takes the audience to a new place, nobody’s sure what to make of but the sheer joy exuding from the trio keeps the momentum ticking.

Cowley’s playful nature continues when introducing the rest of the band. He recalls a media line where a comparison between bassist Sadler and the radio DJ Chris Moyles. Jokes aside they launch into the danceable yet frenetic energy of ‘We Are Here To Make Plastic’. The piece bustles along before stopping for breath, then Cowley starts again, the textural patterns played by each hand melding into one.

Cowley lets us know of the trio’s appearance on Jools Holland, set to air later in the week, and follows with the track they performed. It’s the first track off Loud, 'His Nibs', the semiquaver rhythms from Cowley driving the trio along. Cowley’s personal favourite ‘Degree in Intuition’ is next featuring a meditative introduction by Cowley that sets it up before Jenkins grows into a marching beat. He leads the crescendo before the crashing conclusion of pounding chords and glissandos.

Just when you think they can’t play any louder, the trio live up to the album’s name, providing a double encore, which, as Cowley says, will be “something ridiculously stupid”. Finishing with ‘She Eats Flies’, Cowley jives around while Jenkins solos, Sadler remaining as composed as ever. Ridiculously stupid? Perhaps. But stupid sure sounded fun tonight.

Report: Sean Foran

The Write Stuff

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