Faces to Watch in 2012: Pop Music, Classical and Jazz
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Neil Cowley Trio( Paul Greenleaf )
Who is the last British jazz artist who found a foothold in the United States? While pondering that trivia question (Jamie Cullum? Evan Parker?), it's worth seeking out the U.K.'s Neil Cowley Trio in 2012, a nimble piano-jazz outfit at the cusp of an international breakthrough on its upcoming album "The Face of Mount Molehill" (Naim).
In the past Cowley could be heard backing the Brand New Heavies and Zero 7, and he played on both of Adele's albums, but his own project at times recalls the eclectic musical explorations of the Bad Plus and the more rock-angled tilts of Brad Mehldau's trio.
Anchored by Cowley's restless and even anthemic piano melodies, the trio balances a propulsive rhythmic drive with a lush delicacy, augmented on the new album by subtle string flourishes.
-- Chris Barton