CD REVIEW: Andy Nowak trio - Reset

Andy Nowak Trio - Reset
(Self-released. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

Andy Nowak and trio (ANt) follow-up 2016’s debut, Sorrow and the Phoenix, with another fine sequence of eight numbers (virtually all originals) in new album, Reset. Welcoming drummer Steve Davis into the line-up alongside double bassist Spencer Brown, the Bristol-based pianist again delivers characteristically precise single-line melodies, with the entire acoustic ensemble perhaps placing an even stronger emphasis on propulsive, repeating rhythms.

There are glints of possible creative influence here – from Safety in Numbers’ confident swagger, where lurching chordal-clustered foundations might be imagined in a dynamic big-band arrangement, through the bustling Phronesis-style bass-and-piano phrases of Fracture, to assertive Esbjörn Svensson-like melodic intervals and inflections in What a Moon Can Do (that title referencing Captain Beefheart’s gutsy ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ – Nowak a serious fan). But the pianist’s own personality shines through, as leader, imbuing each composition with a beguiling attraction. Prelude’s lilting, arpeggioed bedrock suggests J S Bach’s ‘Praeludium in C’, whilst Syrinx’s mystical, Debussyian beginnings invite leaping motifs indicating this is as much about the groove as the improv.

A subtly Latinesque preface to title track Reset – Nowak’s allusion to “the micro and macro psychological shift I believe we as a species may have to encounter in order to survive ourselves” – gives way to deliciously blithe, bass-pliant swing. A shuffling, meandering take on an old tune, Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor (composer unknown) – the pianist inspired by an interpretation from US singer/guitarist Mississippi John Hurt – is softly mesmerising. So, too, is the awakening momentum of Dawn, whose folksong hook becomes more bluesy, agile and determined as it proceeds into drum-and-cymbal-ornamented daylight.

This Kickstarted release – an important concept and connection for the composer in terms of a sense of artistic community – sees a congenial consolidation and progression which is not capricious, but steady. Yet it’s easy to envisage Andy Nowak, at some stage, unleashing his evident penchant for rhythm, even minimalism, by more widely exploring his instrument’s percussive and atmospheric capabilities. Not so much a ‘reset’, but rather a development of an engaging piano trio sound which is ripe for still greater potential.

Reset releases on 2nd March, when it will be available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp. The trio are set to tour from March to July.

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