|Tricko: Lucy Railton and Kit Downes|
Tricko / Kit Downes Trio
(King's Place Hall Two, May 6th 2015. Review by Jon Turney)
The talented keyboard player Kit Downes is a man of many projects. His long-running piano trio with bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, intermittently expanding into a quintet, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2010, and various manifestations of the electric trio Troyka have also been lauded. This Saturday evening at King's Place featured two projects descended from the former, one fully realised, one just starting out.
The first half marked the launch of a CD featuring Downes and cellist Lucy Railton, about to be released on Glenn Armstrong's Coup Perdu label. Railton has been a superb addition to the trio when it has expanded to a quintet. Their duo project Tricko (say "tree-co"), pares that back to just piano and cello, to deliver some rich contemporary chamber music.
All the music is composed by Downes, and it is recognisably from the same hand as his familiar piano trio themes, but makes cleverly varied use of the cello, an instrument that always seems perfectly pitched for jazz in spite of its comparative rarity. Railton is sometimes ethereal, sometimes strikingly assertive. Alliri is poignant, especially at the close. Waira begins simply with rippling piano lines over a simple cello figure then gathers urgency and grows into something rather majestic. Jinn is more abstract, free-sounding although clearly closely written from the way the players changes direction in unison.
The whole set is full of alluring, vivacious music-making, and we would have happily come back for more of this brilliant pairing. But the second set saw a London debut for a new trio, Downes remaining at the piano, with long-time collaborator Maddren on drums and Petter Eldh on bass.
What a difference a bass player makes. Eldh, best known here for his work with Marius Neset and Django Bates, is a very physical player. He appears at times to be wrestling his bass into submission, his breathing effort fully audible as he bends and snaps the strings. If one is used to Calum Gourlay's darker, silkier sound behind Downes, it is quite a contrast.
The pieces the pianist has written for this new trio - this was another set of new music - are typically busier than for the earlier line-up. This is intense, edgy, densely packed music, with few simple statements or straightforward grooves. It has a different kind of excitement, and as work in progress promises much. A feeling that, coming after the sumptuousness of the duo, it could benefit from some moments with a little more room to breathe - something that's enjoyably plentiful on Downes' existing trio recordings - was partly dispelled when Railton joined for a more lyrical encore. The two sets together were a fascinating showcase for a consistently creative player who, not yet 30, is still developing with each new venture.
Review of the new trio at the 2014 London Jazz Festival
Podcast interview from 2013 with Kit Downes and Tom Challenger
Interview about the album New Light from Old Stars
Profile of Kit Downes from 2009