There is really no shortage of piano-driven ensembles, including those embellished by strings, vocals and inputs from other musicians, but the effervescence of each of the ten pieces performed by the Koven Collective must be applauded.
The core group comprises pianist and songwriter Steve Koven, bassist Peter Eratostene and drummer Sarah Thawer, who is one of the most prodigiously gifted drummers in Canada today (the other being Larnell Lewis).
On a first encounter, the nonchalant, playful charm of Koven’s music can mask the challenges and the undercurrent of often complex profundity. Koven frames this musical excursion with two relatively well-known pieces from his repertoire. The first is Eleuthera, a piece that unravels like a cheeky vignette with an effervescent, tumbling percussive groove. The other is the more reflective (if simply titled) ballad Thinking of You. Preceding the first work and in between the others named here is spirited and insouciantly seductive repertoire that is illuminated not only by the core trio but also by saxophone, guitar, cello, banjo, vocals and very effectively employed electronic instruments.
All of this strategically employed instrumentation makes for a refreshing experience of music, informed by a variety of tone colours and rhythmic excellence together with a harmonic boldness and astringency that throws all of the pieces more vividly into relief. Koven, who shepherds the trio and others involved in this music, is a songwriter who has proved once again that his music is licensed to thrill.