Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican

In the last post I wrote about a day in London. That day’s highlight was a gig at the Barbican by the Neil Cowley Trio.

I first heard about the trio when my friend Colin Price sent me a link to this video.

I immediately bought the Face of Mount Molehill album and was hooked. Not only did I love the music but my whole family did too. This is a very rare occurance.

The trio are interesting because, although they look and sometimes sound like a jazz trio, they seem to upset people because they are not jazz enough. There aren’t tons of solos for a start. Trying to explain why they do or don’t fit into a certain category is a complete waste of time. The thing to do is shut up and listen to the music with an open mind. Let’s make a flow chart: do you like the music? Yes – great. No – oh well.

Anyway, the Barbican gig was an important one for the band and you could feel this from the moment they came out on stage. The energy, nervous or otherwise, was palpable. There was so much emotion generated in some pieces my wife almost had to get out of the room. I too felt an overwhelming vibe running through the audience and the reactions (at least two standing ovations) showed this. It easily makes it to my favourite gigs of all time list.

Neil Cowley showed a mastery of the piano and pulled melodies, dynamics and rhythms which demonstrate just how versatile this instrument is. Rex Horan played the double bass and made it sing. Evan Jenkins played the straight ahead parts and complex rhythmic changes with a gleeful ease. At the end of the concert everyone seemed to be smiling, there was so much joy in the room.

I went to see the trio again at their Oxford gig the following week and, despite their wonderful playing, I was reminded how Oxford audiences can seem so restrained compared to, well, almost anywhere else.

My son, at four years old, really loves this band and keeps asking when he can go and see them. Hopefully it won’t be too long.


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