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Tom Cawley's Curios The Other Place Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

An impressively assured change of gear from some serious fast-laners in British jazz

Kevin Le Gendre 2010

There is an art to ending a composition. Classical music calls it a coda and RnB an outro. Jazz could call it a little tune within the larger tune, and Articles, possibly the highlight of this accomplished follow-up to Curios’ 2008 offering Closer, gives a neat, nimble demonstration of the ruse.

Pianist Tom Cawley and his trio conclude the piece with a sharp vamp that swings a blues-rock beat with authoritative subtlety as the leader plays a few melodically jaunty notes that suggest a children’s song, effectively altering the dramatic subtext of the piece. This final section is not the obvious denouement to what has preceded it, a caressingly gentle mid-tempo lament in which the whole ensemble hovers delicately on a wry two-note pulse that flickers almost like a faint heartbeat. As this main passage appears to finally come to rest, Joshua Blackmore’s rotund, resonant bass drum thuds up to another decibel level and what was previously somewhat doleful becomes zestful, the bend in the conceptual road ever so slightly reminiscent of some of the chicanes that Paul Bley negotiated when he was getting to grips with the music of Ornette Coleman.

This ability to shift rhythmic and tonal character has become a key characteristic of many of the leading exponents of the contemporary piano trio, and what Curios have brought to the table is a way of creating and developing visceral, often economic motifs that spin out into more elaborate forms that can feel big and orchestral as well as tight and punchy. Double bassist Sam Burgess is also given a more prominent role as a soloist, sometimes defining the whole ambience of a song with a deep, shadowy tone, while the leader’s considered use of electronics to create what sounds like a kind of melodic amp feedback or the eerie chime of orchestra bells behind some of his chords makes the sound palette richer without compromising the cohesion of the players.

The net result is an impressively assured change of gear from some serious fast-laners in British jazz. 

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