As a young boy, London-born Neil Cowley studied classical music and by the age of 10 had performed a Shostakovich piano concerto to a full house at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. However, by his mid-teens, he had joined a friend in a Blues Brothers tribute band, “as a way” he says “of getting into pubs” and by 17 had turned his back on formal training altogether and entered the world of pop.
Cowley’s skills have been learned on the job. He went on to record and tour with some of the best soul and funk bands of the day including the Brand New Heavies and Zero 7 alongside his own highly successful chill-out production duo Fragile State.
By the mid noughties, Cowley began to find the experience of extracting music from a computer chip unbearable, so, with his dear friend the piano, began composing and eventually realised a long-standing vision to form the Neil Cowley Trio. In 2006 he created his own label and released his debut album Displaced, an outstanding album of original recordings that established him as a dazzling pianist and stunning composer. Cowley created a unique trademark sound that delivered powerful music of massive dynamic range and contrasts – where ferociously forceful, hook laden melodies sit side by side with reflective, tender pieces capable of heart shattering tenderness. The album was released to huge critical acclaim, and earned him the 2007 BBC Jazz Award for Best Album.
In 2008, the trio released their follow-up album, Loud Louder Stop (Cake). Fizzing with the energy of rock and the surging dynamics of dance music, Cowley solidified his sound, yet stretched the envelope further. The recording placed the trio at the forefront of the British ‘Post-Jazz’ movement - Mojo hailed the recording as a “Modern Classic”, and listed it in their ’50 Best Albums’ of that year. Radio Silence (Naim), Cowley’s third album released in 2010 solidified his reputation as a fine composer, and represented the magical empathy of his unit, who had learnt to breathe and listen as one. Throughout the following year, Cowley nourished his fondness for grand, commanding sounds and began a love affair with orchestration. The Face of Mount Molehill was released in early 2012 and showcased his burgeoning talent as a composer and arranger for trio and strings, marking a significant change in direction. The following year, the trio collected the 2013 gong for Best UK Jazz Act at the inaugural Jazz Fm Awards. Cowley describes their fifth studio release, Touch and Flee as their ‘concert hall album’; released in 2014 it cemented Cowley’s credentials as a brilliant, dazzling composer. Neil Cowley Trio release their sixth studio album, Spacebound Apes in 2016
The trio - with Australian Rex Horan on bass and New Zealander Evan Jenkins on drums - are renowned for captivating live performances which have at their heart Cowley’s marvellously English wit and remarkable rapport with his audience . They tour internationally and have appeared at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals.
A TV appearance on Later with Jools, inclusion on two Mojo cover- mounted CDs (celebratory re-workings of tracks by the Beatles and The Beach Boys) ads for Guinness and Nokia, trips to far flung corners of the word for the British Council, a year spent as Musician in Residence in Derry-Londonderry for PRS for Music Foundation and his TV debut as a presenter for the forthcoming jazz magazine programme, Jazz at Metropolis have kept Cowley busy. In April 2015 he celebrated the music of his idol - comedian, pianist and film star, Dudley Moore with a string of shows at Ronnie Scott’s and a companion radio show which he wrote and presented for Jazz FM, ‘Neil n Dud the Other Side of Dudley Moore, nominated for an Arqiva Commercial Radio Award.
In the meantime, Cowley has become the go-to piano man for soul and pop acts that require a jazz technique and rhythmic suppleness to their artful pop hits. He has leant his golden piano touch to artists such as Emile Sandé, Birdy and Michael Kiwanuka. He has contributed to global chart-topping albums by multi Grammy-winner Adele, including, amongst others, the poignantly expressive intro to Hometown Glory and the stomping piano on Rolling in the Deep. In fact, with Adele’s album 21 being 2011’s biggest-ever selling album in a single year, and of the decade, he is quite literally – the most listened to pianist on the planet.