To be invited to play the Montreux Jazz Fest, one must be among the creme de la creme, so Live at Montreux 2012 by the Neil Cowley Trio starts the race a mile ahead of the competition. The Fest's organizers, though, tend to lay hold of all stripes of talent, not just jazzbos—as witness the marvelous inclusions of Talk Talk in the '86 event and Mike Oldfield in '81—and Cowley and crew are evidence of the very rewarding fruit of that leaning. This disc is a potpourri of many extractions, especially so through the inclusion of an accompanying four-piece chamber string ensemble which stretches the composer's landscapes out to the horizon.
Lament opens the disc and is an exercise in the baseline of Cowley's wont, which often favors a meeting place between Dave Brubeck and George Winston before folding the grey matter back and upping the amperage. Rooster was a Witness and Distance by Clockwork, to show this, follow after Lament and throw wide the sonic doors, crafting a form of chamber jazz the band Oregon pretty much invented back in the 70s. To this day, that group has never been one-up'ed, but gents like Will Ackerman came to do a great job in his Windham Hill label, and Cowley is updating the mode once again by ushering in the kind of rock and prog elements Towner & Co. would never have considered. His synthesis emerges as a factor to be pondered as, in this day, hybridization is once again a dominant mode presaging a new wrinkle, or probably more than one, in music that none can yet pre-determine.
This of course creates Live as a non-cataloguable commodity. The Face on Mt. Molehill makes that quite clear, at once baroque and cinematic while rock tempo'ed and inflected, with the angular and oddly titled She Eats Flies tossing all the preceding onto the rocks for a fragmentarily striking denouement to the affair. That last cut manages to become introductorily fazed, then pensive and moody, and finally driving and serial, barreling down the highway and straight into a mountain to bring things to an end. Along the way, the scenery is as varied as an autobahn winding its course through byways and continents.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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