NEIL COWLEY TRIO | Bristol, Colston Hall

Touch and Flee, the fifth studio album from the Neil Cowley Trio, makes a markedly brooding departure from the combustive anthems that have been their hallmark sound previously. Performed in its entirety at Bristol’s Colston Hall, the occasion showcased the intimacy of both Cowley’s compositions and ensemble. Introspective and tightly glimmering piano lines gamboled between Rex Horan’s bass lines, complimented by the charismatic drumming of Evan Jenkins. The space afforded to Horan’s solos proved a welcome indulgence less catered for on the studio recording.

The second half of the performance took an unusually democratic turn, interspersing ‘hits’ (Cowley’s own warmly acidulous term) from the trio’s previous records with favourites voted for on social media. An unshackled Jenkins was afforded opportunity to release the group’s trademark fireworks: Rex’s gunpowder fuelling Cowley’s virtuosic displays. The ‘louder, louder, stop’ technique (sardonically referenced in the title of their second album) gripped an audience, only to then trip them up with crafty rhythm changes that tugged at relentlessly percussive ostinato: Cowley’s whole body thundered into the piano, his neck gyrating like an osteopath’s nightmare, as his fingertips crafted irrepressible melodies. An explosive performance of ‘She Eats Flies’ left the audience roaring for more.

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