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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 18 January 2019 21:57

David Dower Trio – Made In Sofia

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A welcome return from Dower and his new look band.

Australian-born, London-based pianist, David Dower, has worked closely with drummer Matt Fisher over the last few years, first on their project The Frog, The Fish and The Whale (2016), before returning with the fine EP, The Fieldgate Sessions in 2017.

The band has now expanded to a Trio, with the addition of the fine bass player, Luke Fowler. The band toured Bulgaria last year, which culminated in a performance at the Bansko International Jazz Festival, an event that was recorded and televised. To commemorate the success of that tour, the band recorded a delightful new EP, Made In Sofia.

For the most part, the EP is comprised of Dower’s own compositions, which impress, as always. They open with an unusual cover of Abba’s Mamma Mia, however. Rather than de-construct the tune, in the style of The Bad Plus, Dower has played on the darkness he noticed in the opening riff, a darkness that is also apparent in the lyrics, of course, and expanded on that. The tune opens with a slightly menacing bass chord riff, which Dower picks up on, before the pace picks up, adding a touch of fun and humour to the proceedings. It quirky and fun, as you’d expect from their previous releases. New boy, Luke Fowler contributes some fresh ideas of his own, and it’s clear from the beginning that he’s a great addition to the band.

You can take a listen to their recording of Mamma Mia at the Jazz Festival here.

The Junction follows, a nod to the South London venue (Loughborough, not Clapham) where the band played a residency last year. The tunes boasts a warm, catchy melody; I think there’s a hint of Abdullah Ibrahim in Dower’s playing here, which can’t be a bad thing. There’s also a lovely solo by Luke Fowler, with Dower providing some nice touches beneath. It’s my favourite piece here.

Susan’s Song is the most complex new composition on the new album, a tune composed for Dower’s mother in Australia. There’s a melancholy to his playing at the opening, hinting at his homesick feeling, but as the tune develops, it suggests a range of different emotions, before a clever ending, which feels like it’s tying the various strands together. The tune shows how Dower has evolved as a composer over the last few years, and his playing too, as the tune reveals more each time we listen.

The EP closes with Theme from ‘An Average Western’; as the title suggests, this tune has a bigger, bolder melody, but there also some familiar Dower touches at play, from his playful touches beneath the bass solo, to the subtle time changes. If the tune does find a home on a soundtrack, it may have to be re-named 'An Above-Average Western'!

As we we've noted before, it's clear to this band enjoys playing together, and that can also be seen on the YouTube clip above. My only complaint is that with only four tracks, Dower and his Trio left me wanting more. But Sofia, so good!


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