|Neil Cowley, Geoff Gascoyne. Photo credit: Carl Hyde|
Neil Cowley The Other Side of Dudley Moore
(Ronnie Scott's, 24th April 2015. First night of two. Review by Tina Edwards)
“Chopin. That’s what I thought music had to be”, declared Neil Cowley, referring back to his formative years as a young musician. In the show’s opening moments, the pianist painted us a picture of his childhood idol Dudley Moore; he was a rule breaker, who refused to be held back by the limitations of genre.
Beethoven’s Sonata Parody had Cowley's head bopping to the keys with his characteristically animated energy. My Blue Heaven was delivered with a suave confidence, enough to fool us into thinking that he could have dreamt the music himself if we didn’t know better.
“I love playing the piano, have you noticed?”, Cowley asked, following a stimulated performance of I’ll Remember April. He discovered the track on Errol Garner’s 1955 release Concert By The Sea – the only album that challenged his copy of The Other Side of Dudley Moore for attention in his childhood home.
Cowley continued with a sorrowful, nostalgic delivery of Waltz for Suzy exploring the extremities of the piano keyboard to brilliant effect. Sooz Blues gave Cowley a chance to demonstrate his impressively fast finger work, hinting towards the exciting drama that makes the compositions with his own self-titled trio so engaging.
Cowley is a natural storyteller. Leaping up from his stool between songs, he was keen to contextualize the narrative behind almost every piece, engaging those there for Moore’s comic legacy as much as his musical one. Cowley’s ability to guide us from an adaption of Moore’s adult-humoured lyrical back catalogue to the disarmingly emotive Six Weeks - the last song that Moore would ever listen to on his deathbed - was superb. A hearty deliverance of Goodbye-ee with backing vocals from bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan De Krom left a sweet taste in the mouth, and again did well to illustrate the emotionally varied musical journey that we were being taken on.
For encores there was a playfully sensual surprise guest vocal from Katie Melua in Let There Be Love, before Cowley bowed out on an infectious up-tempo Latin number. It allowed De Krom’s creativity to shine with various textures and a disciplined drumroll that was complimented by the rhythmic blows of his own whistle – a dazzling solo.
Fifty years on from the release of the Other Side of Dudley Moore, Cowley’s trio reminded us why the comedian should be remembered just as equally for his musicianship. With Cowley’s comic timing as impressive as his musical timing, it’s hard to imagine another pianist who would have paid better tribute to Moore.