Kit Downes is an award-winning British jazz pianist, organist, and keyboardist known for his clean playing style and bell-like sound. His career has been documented on dozens of recordings from his solo and trio dates, as well as many outings as a sideman. He is a founding member of the jazz group Troyka, and has worked extensively with Gilad Atzmon, Clark Tracey, Stan Sulzmann, and Sam Crockatt. His résumé also includes work with Joe Locke, Seb Rochford, Iain Ballamy, and Nostalgia '77.
Downes is a formally trained musician. He attended Norwich School, the Purcell School, and the Royal Academy of Music. His first recorded appearances were as a guest with Empirical on their self-titled debut in 2007. Produced by Courtney Pine, it was named as jazz album of the year by Jazzwise and Mojo. In 2008, Downes was the winner of the BBC Jazz Award in the category of Rising Star. Troyka, a flexible trio with guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Joshua Blackmore, was founded that same year and cut their initial self-titled date for Edition in 2009. That same year, Downes also recorded a duo album with saxophonist Tom Cauley for Impure, and released his first trio date as a leader (with bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, with whom he had been playing since their school days at the Royal Academy in 2005). Entitled Golden, it was shortlisted for Great Britain's Mercury Prize. He followed it with Quiet Tiger which augmented his trio with a cellist and a saxophonist. In 2012, he co-led the Neon quartet with Sulzmann, issuing the album Subjekt on Edition. Troyka's sophomore outing Moxxy appeared as well. 2013 was prolific: Downes issued two solo piano EPs -- both in digital format only, a pair of leader dates including Light from Old Stars with a quintet on Basho, and Live at the 2013 Cheltenham Jazz Festival with the 18-piece Troykestra. He also played on Nostalgia '77's Journey Too Far. Over the next year, Troyka toured festivals as well as playing regular gigs in London. He performed in concert with a number of other outfits as well. In 2015, he resumed recording. Troyka's Ornithophobia was acclaimed by the British press as one of the best jazz outings of the year. He also made his first appearance on ECM as a member of Thomas Stronen's band for Time Is a Blind Guide. In 2017, Downes and saxophonist Tom Challenger released Vyamanikal, a duo improvisational album cut in various churches around England the previous year. It proved a precursor to his ECM leader debut, Obsidian. Also recorded in 2016, it featured Downes on church organs -- recorded in three different British churches. Challenger guested on the track "Modern Gods." The label released it in the winter of 2018. ~ Thom Jurek~ Rovi