Kit Downes Trio ‘Quiet Tiger’ (Basho) 4/5

This new album is the follow up to the ‘Golden’ debut set that was nominated for a Mercury prize and introduced the pianist to a significantly wider audience than might normally be the case for an emerging jazz talent. It is not in fact a trio album in the strictest sense of the term since tenorist/clarinetist James Allsopp and cellist Adrien Dennfield feature on some pieces. Possibly the album’s greatest selling point is the beautiful ballad ‘With a view’ which shimmers with tension and Downes plays a rolling piano style that conjures up both Keith Jarrett and Abdullah Ibrahim. The pianist sets off on an extended excursion on the be-bop influenced ‘Frizzi pazzi’, so titled because of a sweet that is popular in the South Tyrol. Throughout this album there is a slightly menacing tone and indeed brooding atmosphere, and this is no better illustrated than on the tribute to the legendary folk-blues singer-songwriter simply titled ‘Skip James’.
Here Downes delivers a truly soulful performance. Equally haunting is ‘Attached’ where the quintet is heard to its full potential with cello and bass clarinet combining beautifully. Freer form sounds emerge on ‘Wooden birds’ and ‘The wizards’. A varied set, then, and one that confirms that the initial interest in Kit Downes’ musicianship was not misguided, far from it. An extensive UK tour began in late February and does not end until mid-May.

Tim Stenhouse