A former child prodigy on the piano, Neil Cowley was expected to become a concert pianist, but as he grew older he was increasingly drawn to other styles of music and as a teenager he performed in soul cover bands and with singer-songwriters.
A little over ten years ago Neil Cowley was creating electronic chill-out music in the duo Fragile State. Wanting to explore new things, he decided to form an acoustic piano trio with two of his long-term friends, bassist Richard Sadler and drummer Evan Jenkins. Initially, they played standards in the style of Oscar Peterson, but Cowley soon became enthralled with the sounds of groundbreaking groups such as EST and the Bad Plus. After the trio released their debut album, Displaced, in 2006 they were critically acclaimed and later won the Jazz Line-Up Album of the Year at the 2007 BBC Jazz Awards.
By 2008 they released their second album, Loud…Louder…Stop! and recorded versions of Beatles tunes for a cover-mounted CD for Mojo magazine (October 2008 issue). Neil Cowley also performed the track His Nibs on Later with Jools Holland.
At the 2010 London Jazz Festival the trio performed at the ICA in a collaboration with a string ensemble for the first time. They also released another critically-acclaimed album, the jazzier sounding Radio Silence.
2011 saw bassist Richard Sadler replaced by Australian bassist Rex Horan and the new trio then performed at the London Jazz Festival. By the following year they had recorded another cover for Mojo magazine (June 2012 issue), this time in tribute to the Beach Boys. They were also awarded the 2012 Jazz FM Artist of the Year.
The group also began performing at more festivals, including the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival and the live recording was released as an album as well as a DVD. At Montreux they also explored further the possibilities of augmenting the group with a string section, resulting in the album The Face of Mount Molehill, featuring The Molehill Strings.
In 2013 they performed at the first Love Supreme Festival at Glynde in Sussex and Neil Cowley was appointed the ‘Musician in Residence’ at the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture where he contributed collaborative compositions to what is a vibrant, musical city.
This year, 2014, has seen the release of their latest album, Touch and Flee, together with a music video for the track Sparkling. On top of all this, Neil Cowley has also worked on pop albums by Adele, Stereophonics, Birdy, Professor Green and Emili Sandé. Cowley is renowned for his rapport with audiences and his relaxed sense of humour so his forthcoming concert at Brighton Dome’s Corn Exchange should be an exciting one.
To read our interview with Neil Cowley click here.
This article appeared in issue 29 of The Sussex Jazz Mag, available here.
The Neil Cowley Trio performed at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange on Thursday 9th October.
Read a review of the concert here.