Neil Cowley Trio

at St Luke’s

* * * * -

A highly entertaining and technically exemplary evening of jazz – nice.

Image of Neil Cowley Trio

On more than one occasion, the audience is told that this show at Glasgow Jazz Festival is a precursor to Neil Cowley Trio‘s American tour, and that the band initially forgot they were scheduled to attend it – hence a sharp exit at the evening’s close to catch a New York flight. Though Saint Luke’s might seem like an austere venue from the exterior, the Scottish sunlight streaming in through the stained glass windows provides an excellent backdrop to their first gig of the tour.

Neil Cowley takes his place behind the piano to much applause, and after a few opening ditties, announces the band’s intention to play newest release Spacebound Apes pretty much in its entirety, followed by “the hits” (tongue very much in cheek). From the start of the gig to its encore, it’s obvious that all three musicians are some of the very best at what they do and that they’re fully entranced by the music.

On drums, Evan Jenkins combines the military precision of Whiplash’s Fletcher with the onstage charisma and cool of Steve Moore. It’s clear that Cowley himself is the inspiration behind the music, as the pianist leads the trio through his sometimes softly-softly, sometimes furious plink-plonking on the keys. However, there’s a reason that Rex Horan (on bass) is placed front and centre; the man positively exudes stage presence.

Getting almost as carried away with his performance as he has done with his facial hair, Horan is something of the Rip van Winkle of the jazz trio world; it wouldn’t be pushing the realms of possibility too much to imagine that he’d begun a frenzied solo clean-shaven, only to come back to consciousness many years later with a luxurious beard that Gimli son of Gloin would be proud of.

After a flawless rendition of the new album, the band move on to such favourites as Rooster was a Witness and How Do We Catch Up, with Slims proving to be a particularly memorable moment. It’s no wonder that Cowley has been the go-to guy for artists in need of a top class pianist for decades and with his award-winning band, he’s transferred his impeccable skills to the tightest three-piece you’re likely to see outside of DFS. Though Scotland won’t pretend it’s not hurt that NCT forgot about their Glasgow date, we certainly won’t stay mad at them. Haste ye back lads!