Artist: Kit Downes

Date of Release: 02/11/2009

Catalogue no: SRCD 31-2

Label: Basho

Price: £5.99

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Track Listing







Jump Minzi Jump












Power and Patience (the bear)








A dance Took Place








Tom's Tune






Pianist/composer Kit Downes exploded onto the British Jazz Scene playing with the band Empirical, taking him through Europe and America, and then with Troyka, Fraud and Acoustic Ladyland. Now, two years on, Kit has moved on to his own trio project and this debut album sees him developing as a strong voice both as a performer and composer. Joined by his two Royal Academy colleagues award winning bassist Calum Gourlay and rising drum star James Maddren the music displays a level of understanding and intelligence between players that can only come from working closely together for a number of years. They read each other perfectly.

The band has spent these years developing their own personal sound. The music is immediately arresting and stands repeated listening. It uses melody, inspired from a range of sources ranging from Bela Bartok to Keith Jarrett to Rufus Wainwright, and endeavours both to celebrate the classic piano trio tradition as well as develop it.




15/01/2010 Andrew Vine, Yorkshire Post

Appropriately enough, given the title, Downes is something of a golden boy on the British jazz scene. The young pianist has already won plaudits with the groups Empirical and Troyka, and this debut under his own name shows he's a formidable talent. It's wide-ranging trio music, taking in such diverse influences as Bartok and Rufus Wainwright, and Downes addresses his programme of originals with panache and spontaneity. If there's a comparison with better-known players, it's probably with Brad Mehldau, since Downes has a similarly eclectic outlook on an excellent debut.


10/01/2010 Bruce Lindsay, Allaboutjazz

The quality of writing and performance on this album so soon after the players' graduation demonstrates their huge potential and ensures that the album itself is one of the finest debut recordings of 2009.
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29/12/2009 James McGowan, Tribune

Rising piano star Kit Downes’ debut album Golden (Basho) is a refreshingly unselfconscious navigation of the trio format which fizzes from the opening “Jump Minzi Jump” to the lush textures of the title track.


20/11/2009 John Fordham, The Guardian 4 stars****

British pianist Kit Downes, formerly of Empirical, is beginning to get the kind of enthusiastic attention Gwilym Simcock did on his emergence a few years before - but for a more economical jazz-derived style with a more audible connection to his Royal Academy teacher Tom Cawley's fascination with Brad Mehldau. This trio session, like the Simcock album, features drummer James Maddren, plus bassist Calum Gourlay. If Simcock has a flaw, it's that his erudition and virtuosity give him so many options, it's hard to be ruthless in editing them. Downes is more of a choosy, patient storyteller, and if one of his distinctive original themes only requires a handful of notes and a lot of spaces, he leaves it like that. The group sets out its strengths in the opening Jump Minzi Jump; massages a slow chordal melody over a preoccupied percussion tick on the title track; touches on both Monkish angles and a folksy vivacity on Power and Patience; and uncorks Downes' formidable powers of long-lined swing on A Dance Took Place.


13/11/2009 Ray Comiskey, Irish Times 4 stars****

For pianist Kit Downes, this new album is his first under his own name and the recording debut of his working trio with Calum Gourlay (bass) and James Maddren (drums). Perhaps more personally representative than his acclaimed work with Empirical, Troyka and Acoustic Ladyland, Golden is striking not only for his playing, but also for his compositions, which do much to determine the character of this release. Seven of the eight originals are Downes’s, mostly impressionistic pieces inspired by images or emotions recalled, and developed accordingly by a brilliantly interactive trio. Downes has his influences, including Mehldau and Jarrett, but he’s a remarkably distinctive player. Inside or outside, his lines are full of the original and unexpected, with a logic of their own; and his stunning technique is matched by a rhythmic flexibility given full scope by his rapport with Gourlay and, especially, Maddren.


08/11/2009 Dave Gelly, The Observer

Downes seems to have become everyone's favourite young pianist. He's won awards and played in a variety of bands but he is truly at home with this trio. They met as first-year students in 2005 and have been together ever since. These eight, slightly impressionistic originals are unpretentiously brilliant and full of subtle touches. Downes, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren are all players to watch.


02/11/2009 The Scotsman

THE trio featured on this debut album from pianist Kit Downes played at the Homegrown event in the Glasgow Jazz Festival this summer, though with Scottish bassist Calum Gourley as nominal leader.

Downes came to prominence as a member of Empirical (his former band will tour in Scotland later this month), and his distinctive stamp is clear on the music, most of which he has written – Gourley contributes one composition.

The excellent James Maddren on drums completes a trio that relies heavily on close listening to each other, a process that is manifest in a refined, finely textured group sound and responsive interaction.

Downes typically builds his musical ideas by developing a gradually expanding and intensifying examination of the melodic and harmonic material at hand, punctuating the subtle and understated twists and turns with occasional more virtuoso digressions.


31/10/2009 Mike Hobart, FT

Over the last two years, UK pianist/composer Kit Downes has delivered ultra-cool modernism with Empirical, grungy funk with Troyka and improv with Fraud.

His debut album turns to the conventional acoustic piano trio and gives it a linear twist, putting eight original compositions through their paces with strong support from bassist Calum Gourlay and James Madden on drums.

Themes develop through trenchant swing to airy rock; there are classical references and easy-on-the-ear riffs. The title track is an impressionist swirl, “Homely”, a warm-hearted snippet, and “Madame”, a fugue-like feature for bass.


30/10/2009 Chris Parker, Vortex

A pianist with impeccable credentials (he's played with Empirical, Troyka, the Golden Age of Steam and Fraud, as well as with champion talent-spotters Clark Tracey and Stan Sulzmann), Kit Downes, in perhaps the trickiest musical situation of all – the debut album as leader/composer – has produced the goods yet again.

The album's opener, 'Jump Minzi Jump' (inspired by a cat featured in a programme made by our Greatest Living Englishman, David Attenborough), sets the tone perfectly: spun out from an infectiously catchy hook is an increasingly intense, pleasingly convoluted, piano solo propelled by a fiercely interactive but subtly sensitive rhythm section: fellow Royal Academy of Music students (class of 2005) bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren.

Subsequent tracks deftly repeat this formula, their apparently fragmentary melodies giving rise to consistently powerful, muscular trio explorations that demonstrate the value and effectiveness of the mutual understanding that springs from longstanding musical partnerships.

Both Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett are frequently cited as Downes influences, and there is indeed a hint of the rapt self-absorption associated with the Americans in Downes's approach, but perhaps more readily discernible is an influence he himself cites: that of his 'friend and teacher', Tom Cawley, to whom the album's closing track is dedicated. An assured and polished album that reveals fresh felicities each time it's played.


14/10/2009 Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

his sound on the piano is so strong and personal, his touch both definite and graceful, the shifting dynamics 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.

The whole review at The Jazz Breakfast


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