Kit Downes

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Reviews of Kit Downes


11/04/2011 London Jazz

The music of last year's Mercury Prize nominee is neither flamboyant nor attention-craving, that is simply not Downes' way; but it does speak increasingly for itself. And on the evidence of Saturday's concert at Kings Place, to launch the new CD "Quiet Tiger," it is developing in new and fascinating directions.
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23/07/2010 David Smyth London Evening Standard

"Lets us not forget the jazz nominess, the Kit Downes Trio, who emerge at the top of what turns out to be an exceptionally strong year for British piano jazz. Who Knew? Jazz belongs perfectly on a shortlist which could only ever please everyone if it was 30-strong".


23/07/2010 Pete Paphides The Times

"boasting two pieces inspired by David Attenborough, this infectious set brims with the trio's near-psychic sense of mutual attunement"


20/02/2010 Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

But the really intuitive, the ones who dig deep every time they play, grow to find the zone more easily (though that is a relative word in this context), and get into it more often. Kit Downes is one of these.
...this was a gig of the year so far, and one that will not easily be bettered, whether in concert hall or club
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15/01/2010 Andrew Vine

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.

t'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. AV


20/11/2009 John Fordham **** Guardian

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. 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.”- John Fordham, The Gaurdian ****


14/11/2009 Ray Comiskey **** Irish Times

“Golden is striking not only for his playing, but also for his compositions.. a brilliantly interactive trio. 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.”
- Ray Comiskey, Irish Times ****


14/11/2009 Dave Gelly - Observer

“Downes seems to have become everyone's favourite young pianist. 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.”


19/10/2009 Mike Collins Blog

Flowing, elegant grooves; singing melodies; group improvisations that shifted from a whisper to exuberant, driving cascades of notes and a sense that this band breath as one. Kit Downes has been winning awards in other bands and in his own right for a couple of years now, deservedly so, but this was unquestionably a bravura collective effort albeit playing principally the pianist’s compositions. Drummer James Maddren provided one quintessential listening moment when, as he was clattering out a wonky rhythm providing a beautiful foil for the accents from the piano, he suddenly froze, played nothing and then struck the cymbal at the perfect moment to join the piano. His drum solo consisting mainly of him gripping the ride with one hand whilst flailing at it with a brush in the other was another high light. Callum Gourlay’s bass insinuated its way into every tune, pitch perfect and singing as well as driving the music forward.

This music is firmly located in a particular contemporary territory. It was no accident that somehow I was moved to play Brad Mehldau’s Art of the Trio Vol 3, aptly entitled Songs, the next day. To my ears both Downes’s trio and Curios (led by Tom Cawley to whom the bands first track (Tom’s Tune)was dedicated) are exploring territory first mapped out by Mehldau’s in the mid 90s and bringing their own particluar sound and voice to it. Tom’s Tune and the opener on Curios’ album (Little Sharks and Baby Dolphins) seem almost deliberately to reference the first track on Songs (Song-Song).

I can certainly see what all the fuss is about with this band, I left with a spring my step and song in my heart! My other pairs of ears’ taste is slightly different – she prefers a few more swung quavers I fancy. For me – I loved it


13/10/2009 John Fordham The Guardian 4 stars****

Kit DownesThe Forge, London

Pianist Kit Downes, the 22-year-old Royal Academy graduate who emerged with the much-acclaimed band Empirical, is touring the UK with his own debut album, Golden. At the Forge, Downes took an unaccompanied trip through his own thoughtful themes, but also visited classics like Thelonious Monk's Bemsha Swing, Duke Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood and the Irish folk song She Moved Through the Fair — diversions he found so absorbing that he eventually had to ask the audience what time it was.

She Moved Through the Fair opened on liquid treble trickles against a hinted melody in the left hand, built to flowing unbroken runs, before evaporating on desolate plucked sounds. The wistfully unfolding Golden also began as fragile, wide-spaced harmonies over a steady low-end figure that stood in for the album's ticking drums, then morphed into a rag-like Bemsha Swing. A rapturous ballad followed, an under-the-lid investigation that released softly squealing and very un-pianolike sounds, and then came a churning 12-bar boogie. Another Monk digression surfaced in a cascade of treble runs during In a Sentimental Mood.

Downes's classical background perhaps assists him more explicitly in solo performance than it does when he plays in bands, but his jazz imagination is always palpable.


10/10/2009 Peter Vacher - Jazz UK

"Downes offers a cultivated musical intelligence allied to
a determination to find bracing things to say"


09/10/2009 John Fordham The Guardian

The most memorable improvisation on this session comes from Kit Downes. The former Empirical pianist undams ­barline-leaping torrents of melody, egged on by left-hand nudges and slurs (particularly on the freeform ­Devil's Chair) that testify to his world-class stature.


09/10/2008 Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph


Kit Downes Trio, St Cyprians Church. 7th October 2008

"The trio makes a cool, refined sound, overlaid with the soft patter of drummer James Maddren and punctuated by the deft, understated bass of Calum Gourlay. They're ideal partners for pianist Kit Downes, whose touch at first seemed as elfin and light as the man himself. This gig was a reminder of what makes him special…a hot virtuoso.
He doesn't wow us with flamboyant pianism, though he certainly has the technique. Just once, he let loose a torrent of virtuosity, in the form of a tumbling cascade of notes that at times separated into parallel streams, like water flowing past a rock, and then merged again. On the whole, Downes impresses more with harmonic and textural imagination than digital dexterity." **** - Ivan Hewett, Telegraph 2008


01/06/2008 John Fordham, JazzUK 2008

"Kit Downes is about to emerge as a formidable force in his own right…his originals were haunting, and his hypnotic, Mehldau-influenced playing fizzed with ideas that got hotter by the moment. Three to watch."


01/06/2008 Time Out Magazine 2008

“A brilliant soloist who builds ideas slowly into cascades of melodic ideas...His prodigious keyboard skills avoid obvious neo-bop tendencies with highly imaginative tunes and expansive, melodic solos.”


01/06/2008 Chris Parker (Vortex Review) 2008

“Downes's trio are a classy but powerful act…providing yet more evidence of the strength of the extraordinary current renaissance (especially noticeable in piano trios) of the UK jazz scene.”


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