Kit Downes ‘Obsidian’ LP/CD (ECM) 3/5

ECM has rightly acquired a reputation for not pandering to conventional tastes and promoting left-field projects whenever possible. This is a case in point. Pianist Kit Downes is best known for his work in trios and sideman for larger ensembles, but for his ECM leader debut, he breaks the mold by performing on a variety of church organs in Suffolk and at the Union Chapel in London. It has to be stated that this is not really a jazz recording, though other jazz pianists have occasionally reverted to the sound of the organ, including on less than Fats Waller and on one piece, ‘Modern Gods’, Downes is joined by tenor saxophonist, Tom Challenger. A real treat is a fascinating rendition of the traditional folk number, ‘Black is the colour’, which Nina Simone famously sang. Otherwise, the compositions are the leader’s own. The project as a whole is devoted to the late pianist John Taylor, who was not averse himself to the occasional organ performance.

Tim Stenhouse