[This review was first published in Jazz Journal in 2010.]
Tom Cawley (piano)
Sam Burgess (bass)
Joshua Blackmore (drums)
2009 World Champion
Edition Records EDN1018
Now on their third release, Tom Cawley’s piano power trio have produced an album of dynamic and egalitarian interplay. This is cerebral music to which the foot can tap. While some tracks – such as the opener Pursuit – seem to hammer at the listener’s attention, there is plenty of elegance here; they want to please the ear as well as astonish it. The occasional and subtle use of electronic effects introduces new textures which are seamlessly incorporated; for example, the backwards-sounding notes on Pure are reminiscent of the Icelandic band, múm and add a slightly ambient feel to the romantic melody. From tentative calm to funky bombast, one feels that this trio are always immersed in the music but never lost in it.
Five years since I wrote the above review for Jazz Journal and probably five years since I listened to this album. That in itself isn’t a criticism, there’s been a lot of new stuff through the door in that time and it’s fair to say that my listening interests have gradually drifted more to the twin European poles of Scandinavia and Catalonia. So, no reflection on Tom & Co, then. But half a decade later, what impression does it make now?
First of all, maybe I just appreciate drummers more these days but right from the start, Joshua Blackmore really leaps out at me. He’s playing some really fascinatingly odd, even clashing rhythms, clattering about and generally sounding like he and his kit are falling down a flight of stairs… while nevertheless maintaining something rock-steady for Cawley and Burgess to play with. And don’t even get me started on the mad disjointed clockwork of Roadster.
The other point that strikes me – other than the relentless intensity and clarity of playing from which every single note rings out – is the ‘classic’ nature of some of the compositions. Plea and Belief, for example, are just begging for a set of lyrics (probably melancholy and lovelorn) and the right voice in order to guarantee their entry into the great jazz songbook; standards in the making.
It occurred to me that I’ve not heard much of Curios since this album came out. A quick google later and it transpires that their next album wasn’t released until the middle of 2014 and judging from the scarcity of online reviews, wasn’t marketed too heavily. It’d be interesting to hear, not least because The Other Place saw their first dabblings (to very pleasing effect) with electronics and apparently that forms a much larger part of their current sound. Hmmm…
Anyway, returning to 2010, I stand by what I said then and maybe I should have said more. In those days, JJ didn’t ask reviewers to allocate a star rating (they do now, between 1 and 5) but if I was asked now, I’d say a comfortable 4.