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Review: Tom Cawley’s Curios


Tom Cawley’s Curios
(Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, April 20th 2010, review by Charlotte Keeffe)

Before he took his place at the piano – where he so naturally belongs – the down-to-earth pianist, composer and bandleader of Curios, Tom Cawley told the audience he had something to confess. No, nothing alarming or controversial. Simply that he, Sam Burgess (double bass) and Joshua Blackmore (drums) had just had a lovely day, meeting and listening to students on the jazz course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Cawley began by tickling the keys, and tumbling into a yearning romantic melody, gracefully introducing us to the classical notions of his distinctive trio – performing the title track Hidden, from their first album, released in 2006.

Cawley’s passion for motor sports didn’t take long to reveal itself. The band’s hero, he told us, is Jenson Button. Running his hand through his hair Cawley smiled and admitted he gets his style from him too. Their next piece was a tribute to Button, Jensen – from Curios’s second album, Closer, from 2008.

Burgess then presented us with some firm, sturdy double bass on Roebuck, which was also a tribute, this time to Nigel Roebuck – Cawley’s favourite motor sports writer, also from the album Closer.

Blackmore played so dynamically throughout the set. At times he filled the room with overwhelming resonances that he grew from his cymbals. The diverse sounds he achieved on the kit conjured up a sense of being inside a mechanic’s garage. Hitting the raised top of the cymbals and the sides of the drums, enhanced a tight, raw attacking sound, like a hammer in the distance. He generated these rhythmic fragments that offered so much for Cawley and Burgess to play with.

Cawley’s attention to detail involved every note being played with a phenomenally even touch. Using the full range of the piano, particularly the higher register, he made the instrument sing. Igniting these explosive phrases in Bradford, a tribute to Brad Mehldau, again from the album Closer. Jolting up and down on his stool, the audience could feel Cawley’s excitement – it was as if he was sat in a racing car, hitting turbo. Burgess and Blackmore were brewing underneath him – his fuel. Curios works wonderfully as a statement of musical intimacy, friendship and enthusiasm.

The accelerating trio drove us around their musical racing track, passing through spiralling dissonances, lyrical solos, warm impressionistic harmonies, and swirling, flourishing passages. However, it was the short, beautiful fragmented melodies that teased the listener, often with humorous twists and turns.

The brakes went on for the gentle closing number, 2009 World Championship, the last track from their latest album The Other Place released in March this year on Edition Records. It has a sweet melody, sensitively embraced by the trio’s unique musical intelligence.

By the end of this well-attended and enjoyable gig I certainly wasn’t the only person thinking: ‘what a ride!’

Curios are at the 606 Club on Tuesday May 25th

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