Kit Downes Trio Quiet Tiger Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Builds on the success of their debut and moves on to explore new territories.

John Eyles 2011

With their debut album, Golden, Kit Downes Trio made quite a splash. It received glowing reviews and was shortlisted for the 2010 Mercury Prize – not bad for three musicians who formed the trio while studying at the Royal Academy of Music. Now comes the harder part – their all-important second album. Should they tinker with a winning formula, or leave it alone?

On Quiet Tiger, all 11 compositions are by Downes, a sensible decision given the success of his pieces on Golden. The trio remains unchanged – Downes on piano, Calum Gourley on double bass and James Maddren on drums – but only three of these tracks feature the trio alone. On the other eight, they are joined by guests James Allsopp on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet plus Adrien Dennefeld on cello.

The three trio tracks follow on from Golden, and are used effectively to punctuate the quintet pieces. Their focus is largely on Downes, who is always ready to take off on a fluent, soaring piano solo. Frizzi Pazzi and In Brixen are bright, energetic compositions, with a good sense of melody, designed to aid solo flights. Gourley and Maddren provide solid support and are just as ready with solo flourishes of their own. In contrast, Fonias is a mellower and more deliberate piece, with greater emphasis on mood and melody.

There is more experimentation and variety on the tracks with Allsopp and Dennefeld. The reeds and cello are not just added to the trio as guest soloists, but are weaved into the fabric of the music to provide original and inventive soundscapes. So, on the broodingly atmospheric opener, Boreal, Allsopp’s bass clarinet plays as part of the rhythm section, giving it a disquieting sense of otherness. On the lively Tambourine, which features fine solos from piano and bass, the saxophone and cello are subtly used as underpinning drone instruments, to similar effect.

With Quiet Tiger, Kit Downes Trio have built on the success of their debut and moved on to explore new territory. On this showing, their future explorations will make fascinating listening.

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