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Former Adele pianist to bring talents with Neil Cowley Trio to Columbus

Courtesy of Tom Barnes

The Neil Cowley Trio might just now be finding its footing in the United States, but what potential fans might not know is they’ve been hearing pianist Neil Cowley’s work for years – he provided the piano part for Adele’s song “Hometown Glory.”

The Neil Cowley Trio is scheduled to perform its brand of “poetic jazz” at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Performance Space.

This will mark the British band’s first time in Columbus as it begins to build a new fan base in the U.S. with The Face of Mount Molehill U.S. tour. The tour supports the band’s fourth album, “The Face of Mount Molehill.”

“In the United States we’re really a new band. We want to keep expectations low for the support we may get in the U.S. like we did in the U.K., since we’re showing off our music to a brand new audience,” Cowley said. “Making it in the U.S. is the goal of any band, and we’re putting in the hard work now. In other countries we’d have nice hotels, but now it’ll be back to sleeping on my friend’s couch.”

“The Face of Mount Molehill” was inspired by multiple German bands Cowley was listening to at the time, such as experimental rock band Can, electronic band Kraftwerk and electronic/experimental band Cluster. Cowley also said he wanted to experiment with strings for this album and created a string quartet to create the “big and dramatic” sound he wanted for the record.

“We have firm ideas of music we want to create before we head into the studio and that’s because we record in very expensive studios that have the best sound quality. We spent a week in RAK Studios (in London) to achieve that level of high-quality sound and we recorded as one unit. We usually have three to four takes for recording a song, and if it’s a difficult song to perform, it’ll be 10 takes,” Cowley said.

The band’s first album, “Displaced,” released in 2006, was recorded in two days and ultimately earned the band a BBC Jazz Award for Best Album in 2007. Cowley said this was an utter shock to him and his bandmates since they were relatively new in the music scene as a band.

Cowley, however, is more widely known for working with then-unknown British singer Adele. Cowley said he met Adele and her producer Jim Abbiss through a string of musical contacts within the U.K. and he was asked to help record Adele’s first record “19.”

Cowley said Adele was a very humble and down-to-earth person within the studio.

He said he continued to work with Adele, providing piano instrumentals for her hit single “Rolling in the Deep” off her breakthrough album “21,” which garnered the 2012 Grammy for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. “Rolling in the Deep” won the 2012 Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Jennifer Wray, a marketing and media assistant for the Wexner Center, said the Wexner Center is sticking by its commitment to bring “talented musicians from around the world” to town by scheduling the Neil Cowley Trio.

“They’re a high-energy group with rollicking, powerful melodies, and their instrumental work is such that even if your tastes run more to indie rock than to jazz, you’re sure to hear something you like,” she said.

The band also provides a certain genre of music the Wexner Center has promised to sponsor.

“We have a commitment to jazz innovators and also regularly sponsor international artists in all disciplines. Neil and his band fit both categories,” said Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center. “I’m hoping that fans of music like this will enjoy the Neil Cowley Trio and (hoping) that will include Ohio State students.”

Cowley said he ultimately enjoys the independent music market and hopes to continue pursuing music as a lifelong career.

“I think music speaks louder than the words, I think it gets deeper with music. The music isn’t telling you what to feel, it’s up to you to make that interpretation. Music without the words is the ultimate,” Cowley said.

Tickets are $13 for students, $16 for members and $18 for the general public. They can be purchased at the Wexner Center box office or on the Wexner Center’s website.

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