David Dower is a London-based jazz pianist and composer. Australian born, he completed his studies at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2015. He has performed with Tina May, Robin Banerjee and James Morrison. He is also an accompanist, composer and arranger. He recently recorded an album with percussionist Matt Fisher. The Frog, The Fish and The Whale as its title implies is fun and full of enthusiasm. It is also more than a little bit amazing. It is always a real pleasure when something surprises and this album is full of ‘ah ha’ moments.
Big Balloons kicks off the album and is a big, brassy number with dexterous vocals under which runs a delicious, syrupy piano line and the number builds into an atmospheric, beautifully told narrative with some impressive strings from Sam Parratt (viola) and Graham Du Plessis (cello). The number builds into an emotive climax where the vocals soar. Dad is a conversation between percussion and piano. It begins with a delicious little melody which builds into a simple but effective theme over which Matt Fisher’s percussion adds texture and colour, enhanced by the dropping in of the strings, mini-fugue-like until the quartet take the music, play with the theme, throwing it to each other and creating a fun, light but very musical number.
Go To Sleep, Rybs introduces a bit of raucous, crashing, rocking beats and the music takes on a more jazzy feel with rumbling piano and emphatic percussive playing. This is a clever number, the riotous opening offset by long gentle down sweep, led by piano towards silence and dreams. Kelsie swings with its repeating theme and just when you sense it is delving into the realms of easy listening, they bring it back the piano leading the way, off-set beautifully by the percussion which follows the lead to build - and build they do with both contributing musical dialogue with absolute aplomb. Off beats, wild crashes and well-crafted intuition make this an incredible number to listen to. The changes, the different textures and the sheer depth created by the duo are impressive and very clever. The use of piano to create answers to the percussive strikes shows the versatility of the piano both as a harmonic and rhythm section instrument. Towards the end there is reference to big band jazz soloes from the piano and an ascension into pure swing. A great track.
Lyon begins with atmospheric Calypso beats over which the strings develop sonorous, beautiful sounds, making every use of the space created by the sound here. The percussion is given free rein and does not disappoint, creating a whole sound range of its own before the strings and piano gate crash the party, adding their own delights. The Frog The Fish and The Whale is nuts. Totally fun and frivolous yet entirely listenable. Rhythmic changes, interludes and a range of atmospheres make this a number which never stands still and a joy to listen to.
What comes across in this album is the different textures created, the depths explored and the understanding of the musical effects. Even silences are effective at times. Each track has changes of mood and never continues in the same vein for long. There are definite sections, clearly drawn lines and yet such an interaction between the players you sense the enjoyment and understanding between the musicians. Lines are crossed, sections merge and the complete effect is an album created by musicians who understand the music and above all are enjoying it. Influences are clear, from blues and bluegrass to classical but there is also a sense of knowing when to stop, that fine judgement of not trying too hard to putting too many styles in one listen whilst still showing the knowledge. David nailed it here.
This is original, quirky and David Dower and Matt Fisher have created something which is, as I said, more than a little bit amazing.