On this third album from Neil Cowley and his regular trio, British influences are very much to the fore with some of Cowley’s pianistic favourites added into the mix. These include the pop/rock inspired ‘Hug the greyhound’ and the blues inflections of ‘Desert to Rabat’ that is evocative of a desert journey. Sometimes the tempo is just a little too rapid for the listener, becoming too immersed in technique rather than allowing the musicality of the trio to shine through and this can sometimes alienate the listener as on ‘Gerald’. Elsewhere the building of tension into crescendos as on the lyrical ballad ‘Radio silence’ is inspirational and hints at greater heights for the trio. There are elements of EST in the lengthy ‘Portal’ and of Brad Mehldau on the nice mid-tempo shuffle of ‘Stereoface’ while the intriguingly titled ‘French lesson’ actually has a Spanish-tinged feel akin to that created by Chick Corea. An extensive UK tour will begin in May and into
Pianist Dave Stapleton has on this third album weaved an intoxcating mix of post-bop and avant garde influences into a cohesive project that combines melodic compositions and yet is challenging in equal measure. He excels on ballads such as ‘Dry white’ which illustrates the maturity of the band and has something of a mid-1960s Blue Note feel to it (the album cover itself surely is inspired by the inconic covers of the legendary label). Indeed the classical romanticism of Ravel allied with early 1970s Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett are clearly major inspirations for Stapleton while saxophonist Ben Waghorn seems to a devotee of Wayne Shorter from his Miles quintet and Blue Note tenures. In contrast, ‘Socks first’ is a piece that takes a leaf out of McCoy Tyner’s modal innovations and even hints at a Spanish influences while ‘Doc Lightyear’ takes the quintet into altogether different territory with New Orleans and even freer elements evident. Even a bop tribute on ‘Wig wag’ transforms itself part way through into something stylistically more leftfield. The extensive airing of ballads and all self-penned compositions is a refreshing change and this is certainly in general a cut above the usual session and bodes well for the future. In particular one should applaud the extent to which Dave Stapleton at times plays a supportive role to enhance the overall quintet sound. Definitely a group to watch out for.
During the mid-1950s before signing for Columbia, Miles Davis cut a series of highly acclaimed recordings for Prestige and ‘Walkin’ was one of the earliest of these. The line up oscillates between two formations on either side of the vinyl. For the first Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke make up the sumptuous rhythm section with Lucky Thompson on tenor and J.J. Johnson on trombone. For the second side the rhythm section is repeated, but the seldom heard alto saxophonist Dave Schalk replaces the two other reedmen. The album became famous for the extended version of the title track which would go on to be a Davis staple tune well into the 1960s and for a nice rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Blues’ n’ boogie’. Equally of interest is Miles’ own composition ‘Solar’ which was an indication of the compositional genius that was to follow. While not quite on a par with ‘Cookin’ and ‘Relaxin’’ when Miles had truly found a solid rhythm section to play repeatedly with in live and recorded settings, ‘Walkin’ is nonetheless an album of consistently high standard and one on which Davis’ distinctive trumpet sound was well on the way to being formed. Original sleeve notes from renowned critic Ira Gitler place the album and artists featured therein in their rightful historical context.