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Neil Cowley Trio - Radio Silence (2011)

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Neil Cowley As the poignant, expressive piano voice behind both of Adele's albums, Neil Cowley has a sound that seems immediately familiar. Yet he doesn't simply rely on that famous association to push along Radio Silence.

As often as he performs with a similarly recognizable delightful grace (as on the title track and the “Portal"), Cowley also displays this flinty sense of interplay with bassist Richard Sadler and drummer Evan Jenkins on this, their third recording together. They tear through the randy “Hug the Greyhound," one of eight Cowley originals on the album. (Cowley also co-wrote the group composition “A French Lesson.") The trio then combines both impulses on the complex and enjoyable “Gerald."

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: '21' could have been a game changer for Adele. Instead, it's just another weigh station for a gifted young singer still searching for the right set of songs.]

This is no pop-music dilettante dabbling in jazz during an off week from the Adele merry-go-round.

There's a dynamic, contemporary, collaborative feel throughout—part London pub singalong, part friendly confidences shared on the tour bus and, yes, part child-like sense of wonder. It doesn't always remind you of Adele/Cowley triumphs like “Hometown Glory," and that's a very good thing. Instead, Radio Silence—issued last week on Naim Jazz Records—is a strikingly cohesive improvisational triumph.


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