I was a big fan of Empirical's debut album, so I looked out for Kit Downes and bought Golden
which has some great tunes and playing.
His trio's second album is different again - not least for the fact that it's no longer a trio and has additional musicians on most tracks, which add further colours to the music and create a different atmosphere. This is mostly a gentle sound, with piano to the fore and reeds/cello providing what sounds like written accompanying parts - the exceptions being "Wooden Birds" and The Wizards" which provide interludes of "Free Jazz"!
Downes' compositions however are what define this album and where it stands and falls. I would say that there are some good tunes here - but nothing that really stands out - this gives most of the album a consistent mood and makes it feel like a statement, along the lines of Seb Rochford's Polar Bear before they started using electronics.
There is a wistful, haunting quality to many of the piano-lead melodies - which is peculiarly British or maybe European - this is a long way from US, Blues-based Jazz and has a sound of its own - more about the written compositions and moods created. Calum Gourlay and James Maddren are very sympathetic collaborators - the bass in particular, echoing the melancholy moods and providing several nice solos that fit the tunes well.
The sound is perfectly clear and in fact the only slight annoyance is when you hear Downes "singing" behind his solos in the manner of Keith Jarrett - this sometimes breaks the mood and detracts from the lovely piano sound, for example on "Skip James" the vocal sounds just don't fit in with the sustained mood created, by the instruments.
Overall though this is a worthy successor to Golden and you can see how there is a logical progression - leading on to future larger ensembles, possibly.