Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Richard Jones Trio

Angle Shades

by Ian Mann

May 18, 2023


Balanced on the cusp between composition and improvisation the Jones Trio draw from the best of both worlds.

Richard Jones Trio

“Angle Shades”

(Efpi Records FP047)

Richard Jones – piano, Joshua Cavanagh-Brierley – double bass, Johnny Hunter – drums

“Angle Shades” is the début album from the Manchester based Richard Jones Trio, a group of three old friends who formally became a trio in 2021 in the immediate post lockdown period, as Jones explains;

“We put the trio together in 2021 when the lifting of restrictions allowed musicians to rehearse in the same room again. By discussing and workshopping our individual approaches to composition and improvisation we collectively developed the material that would later form this album. We had a shared goal to develop material that wasn’t always fully formed (like traditional song forms for example) and instead we wrote ideas and motifs that would encourage each player’s creativity and form the basis for improvising as soloists and collectively. We gigged the music locally at first to try out new ideas and varying approaches to the material in a performance setting and then recorded in June 2022. The gigs felt vastly different from each other in terms of the direction the music took and I wanted to capture that feeling on the album. So we recorded only one take for a lot of pieces and whittled the material down to what we liked best, rather than getting bogged down in multiple takes and the music losing its freshness and honesty”,

Influences on the group’s music include the Norwegian trio Moskus, US drummer Jim Black’s trio and the British pianist Liam Noble.

“Angle Shades” appears on the Manchester based independent Efpi Records, the label founded in 2009 by musicians Ben Cottrell, Sam Andreae and Anton Hunter. Efpi is the home to the acclaimed Beats & Pieces Big Band, conducted by Cottrell, of which Jones is a member. The label has also released solo projects by various B&PBB members and has also acted as an outlet for musicians from London, notably saxophonist Cath Roberts, and from the wider European jazz and improvised music scene.

As well as leading his own trio and being the keyboardist for B&PBB Jones’ playing has also been heard in bands led by B&PBB trumpeter Graham South and vocalist and songwriter Nishla Smith. He is also a member of saxophonist Emma Johnson’s band Gravy Boat and of the co-operative quartet Universal Time.

Cavanagh-Brierley is a bandleader in his own right and his 2021 release “Joy In Bewilderment”, his third album as a leader, is reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. He has also worked with vocalists Nishla Smith, Janileigh Cohen and Caoilfhionn Rose Birley, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, pianist Daniel Wellens, the duo Skeltr and larger ensembles such as Beats & Pieces Big Band, Kaleidoscope Orchestra, Manchester Concert Orchestra and Manchester Camerata Orchestra. He has worked with the American popular composer Frank Wildhorn and played for touring productions of West Side Story and Motown, The Musical.  My review of “Joy In Bewilderment” can be found here;

Johnny Hunter is also a regular on the Jazzmann web pages, both as the leader of his own projects and as a prolific sideman. Among those with whom he has worked are vocalist Nishla Smith, , saxophonists Nat Birchall, Pete Lyons, Mick Beck and Martin Archer, pianists Adam Fairhall, Misha Gray, John Donegan and Laura Cole, bassists John Pope and Seth Bennett and various ensembles led by saxophonist Cath Roberts and by his guitar playing brother Anton Hunter. Numerous recordings featuring Hunter’s playing are reviewed elsewhere on this site, including his own “Pale Blue Dot” (2020)  and “Fragments” (2019), a recording by the improvising piano trio of the same name featuring Fairhall and Bennett.

The music of the Jones trio places a greater emphasis on formal composition than that of Fragments but improvisation is still a highly important component of the music throughout “Angle Shades”. All three members are involved in the compositional process with Jones contributing three tunes, Hunter two and Cavanagh-Brierley one.

The album was recorded at Sansom Studios in Birmingham during the course of a single day, 12th June 2022, with engineering duties undertaken by studio owner Ollie Sansom and the perpetually busy Alex Bonney.

The first item is Jones’ composition “Eye’s Regret”, which features the contrast between the pianist’s melodic, Bill Evans inspired lines and the insistent rustle and bustle of Hunter’s drums, a mix of fidgety beats and constantly evolving polyrhythmic grooves. Cavanagh-Brierley’s bass is a highly mobile anchor and becomes more prominent as Hunter adopts a more settled, martial rhythm during the second phase of the song while Jones continues to chart a melodic course through the rhythmic abstractions of bass and drums. The music then becomes freer as it progresses and incorporates a solo drum feature from Hunter, before Jones returns to assert himself more forcefully in the final section, with the trio upping the energy levels as they vie for supremacy.

Understated drums and bass usher in Hunter’s intriguingly titled “350 Million Herring” before Jones enters to trade phrases with the rhythm team, the pianist gradually taking over the melodic lead.  His piano ruminations are sympathetically shadowed by bass and drums, with the music becoming more animated as the piece progresses. Jones’ playing becomes more extrovert and Cavanagh-Brierley and Hunter respond in kind with increasingly busy and propulsive bass and drums.

Jones’ “K.H” begins quietly with the pianist’s melodic lines subtly shadowed by bass and drums, with Hunter in ‘colourist’ mode. Jones’ playing is lyrical and melodic, but still resolutely exploratory, and he develops the music in interesting ways, negotiating numerous twists and turns as Hunter and Cavanagh-Brierley continue their empathic support. Jones’ solo gathers intensity and momentum before he eventually hands over to Cavanagh-Brierley who leads the next, quieter, section from the bass. The momentum then builds again through a closing piano led section, before finally subsiding once more.

Hunter’s “Thursday Afternoon in Newcastle” sounds vaguely Monk-ish at first and again features that contrast between Jones’ relatively straight ahead pianism and the fractured rhythms of Hunter’s free jazz inspired drumming. Indeed the piece subsequently wanders into free jazz waters with the three musicians bouncing ideas off each other as the music becomes more abstract, with Cecil Taylor also suggested as a possible influence here. This is a trio that operates on the cusp of composition and improvisation and each piece is multi-faceted and unpredictable, typically investigating various areas of musical terrain within the course of a single composition. The music is all the better for it.

Cavanagh-Brierley’s contribution with the pen is “Mr. Relaxed”, which begins in suitably mellow fashion with Hunter deploying brushes and the composer soloing melodically on double bass. Initially the mood is that of a jazz ballad and the ‘old school’ feel remains even when the momentum of the piece increases; still led by Cavanagh-Brierley’s bass at first, before Jones takes over for a dazzling solo, his quick-fire melodic phrases now accompanied by propulsive bass and bustling drums.

The album closes with Jones’ “Some Mat”, which is gently ushered in by the composer at the piano, his introductory phrases helping to shape the direction of the track. The trio’s well honed rapport is much in evidence as the music becomes increasingly knotty, but still intrinsically melodic. The piece also embraces more reflective episodes, one of which features Cavanagh-Brierley on bowed bass. This is a particularly beautiful passage and concludes this fascinating recording.

Balanced on the cusp between composition and improvisation the Jones Trio draw from the best of both worlds. This isn’t a conventional Oscar Peterson style piano trio, neither is it a cool Nordic / ECM style contemporary one. Instead the Jones Trio have carved out a niche of their own, the music still inherently melodic but still spiky and challenging at times and played with a genuinely exploratory spirit. It perhaps won’t appeal to fans of more conventional piano trios but there is much to enjoy and to discover here. These are multi-faceted pieces that reveal fresh details with each listening.

The trio are currently touring the album with forthcoming dates as follows;


21st May – MAP Studio Café, London
25th May – Leeds Jazz Festival at Fusebox, Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
04th June – The Globe, Newcastle
June 24 - Pianodrome at The Wee Hub,  Edinburgh
25th July – The Spotted Dog, Birmingham

The album can be purchased here;

See also;


From Richard Jones via Facebook;

Many thanks to Ian Mann for this lovely review of the record.
Very rewarding feeling for someone to have really spent some time with the record and for the thinking behind the music to have come across.



blog comments powered by Disqus