Kit Downes Trio: Golden (Basho Records SRCD 31-2)
It has become to feel like Kit Downes not being in the band is something worth remarking on. He’s just everywhere at the moment. While he may have first come to our attention as part of the first incarnation of Empirical, in the last year he has been in Troyka, Golden Age Of Steam, and the bands of Sam Crockett, Asaf Sirkis and Clark Tracey. That he brings something fresh to each goes without saying, but even more remarkable is that he seems to bring different fresh things to all these groups.
And while all his contributions in all these different contexts have been worth listening to, nothing quite prepared me for just how good this trio disc is. It’s very much in the modern style of being an equilateral triangle; the other two sides – or is that angles? – are Calum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums. But Downes does write all the tunes but one, and I get the feeling his is the dominant force.
And what a force!
The album opens with Jump Minzi Jump, a nutty little mid-tempo tune, moving through nice chord changes and the bass pulse settling in. And just when we are getting comfortable with it, it suddenly speeds and morphs into something much more urgent and darker in emotion, before settling back but never really restored to its initial calm. All three instruments work so well together in a kind of parallel improv.
The title track has a space-filled atmosphere that would not sound out of place on an ECM record, and the recording has a fine sense of space too, with Maddren’s rim pulse way off in the distance but still vital to what is going on in the foreground with Downes patiently ramping up the intensity and Gourlay pacing him perfectly.
There are joys to be found throughout, from the classical/Jarrettish lilt of Homely to the strong form of Power and Patience, which breaks into free chaos towards the end.
My favourite is A Dance Took Place, in which Downes keeps reducing me to slack-jawed wonderment – his sound on the piano is so strong and personal, his touch both definite and graceful, the shifting dynamics of the piece continually surprising.
I urge you to buy this disc – it really is not only the bee’s knees but the bee’s ankles, hips and all the other bee-like joints, too.
And not only is there this marvellous recorded music but you can hear the band in person this evening at The Cross in Moseley, courtesy of the Cobweb Collective. It starts at 8pm and, amazingly, is free. Finally, the best things in life are..!