James Dower

James Dower Trio Featuring Steve Skop and Mark Mahoney

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James Dower and his music mates have put out a fine modern piano trio album. Featuring six originals and two standards, they swoop down on the play list with a combination of aggression and sensitivity that works. They are clearly out to show listeners that they are virtuosos at what they do and they manage to be convincing. There's a bit of everything regarding the contemporary approach to the piano trio on this CD. Dower's piano takes the lead on "Night and Day" as he quotes a few bars from the opening theme of The Lone Ranger Show of yore. This track also is the home for some very inventive improvisation, with all members contributing equally -- Dower's clean-stroked piano, Steve Skop's attention-getting bass, and Mark Mahoney's drum melodies on the skins. Dower's piano takes on an inquiring mode on "In the Next Life" as he chatters rhythmically with Skop's bass, which stays pretty much at the low end of the scale, laying a very solid bottom for the proceedings. One of the finer moments from this session is the lovely, lilting Mahoney-composed "In the Next Life." Here, Skop shows that he is in full control of the upright bass by shifting his focus to the higher end of the scale as he and Dower engage in a back and forth during this dreamlike serenade. This trio is one of the many fine jazz groups working out of the Boston area in the early '00s. Dower is a graduate of Berklee College of Music is also part of the band the Search Party. Not content to limit his performing to jazz combos, drummer Mark Mahoney has also performed and recorded with various groups including big bands, rock bands, funk and R&B bands, avant-garde jazz ensembles, Broadway Show pit bands, blues bands, and others. Dower's playing reveals a wide variety of influences including Bud Powell, Mal Waldron, and Bob James. He has taken these influences and melded them into his own pianistic expression, which is eloquent to say the least. This is a good maiden album and is recommended.

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