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CD Review: Kit Downes Trio- Quiet tiger

Kit Downes Trio – Quiet Tiger
(Basho SRCD 34-2
, Review by Chris Parker)

The Kit Downes Trio could be said to epitomise the new wave of UK-based jazz, its coherence based largely on musical relationships formed at various music colleges’ jazz courses. The trio’s repertoire consists of original compositions (unlike many of the older generation, who often draw on the standards or jazz classics for much of their material), and the power of their music relies on the hair-trigger mutual sensitivity ofdrummer James Maddren, bassist Calum Gourlay and their leader/composer, pianist Kit Downes.

Like the trio’s debut album, Golden, Quiet Tiger skilfully exploits the full range of the piano-trio format’s dynamic possibilities, from the slow, dark patter of the opener, ‘Boreal’, through the free-ish skirl of ‘Frizzi Pazzi’ or ‘Wooden Birds’ to the almost Jarrett-like rapturous lyricism of ‘Tambourine’, but this second album extends the band’s sound palette considerably by adding the expressive tenor and bass clarinet of James Allsopp and the intelligently varied textures of Adrien Dennefeld‘s cello to all but three of its eleven pieces.

Downes himself (heard here exclusively on the acoustic instrument rather than the electronic keyboards he plays in other bands) is an unshowy but resourceful player, largely eschewing sparkling runs or pounding climaxes in favour of subtle rhythmic felicities or deft explorations of light, dancing rhythms (‘In Brixen’), bluesy meditation (‘Skip James’) or swirling vigour (‘The Wizards’), Maddren and Gourlay shadowing him every step of the way, and his compositions, as on Golden, are perfect vehicles for his sparkily robust, but patiently imaginative playing.

Quiet Tiger is altogether darker in tone, more sombre than its Mercury Prize-nominated predecessor, but its power and grace should guarantee it a similarly positive reception.

Quiet Tiger will be launched in The Base series at Kings Place on Saturday April 9th

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