Press for John Crawford
Times and Tides
JAZZ JOURNAL by Peter Gamble
KindofJazz.com review of Times and Tides album launch.
Flamenco Sketches of Soho.
The plain unadorned English name of John Crawford gives no hint that it's owner is simply and probably one of Britain's best homegrown Latin pianists. Note perfect in flamenco, jazz and classical shapes, he has collaborated and performed with a who's who and who's that of front line musicians. Eumir Deodato, Ed Motta and Herman Oliviera are but three gold stars on his report card. Both Crawford's quintet and a troupe of guests are on hand here this evening to launch his second self-produced album, Times And Tides.
Crawford & Co warm the audience with a few old tunes of their debut before striking out with the first new airing, Blurred. Precise floating piano chords sit cheek by jowl with guitarist Guillermo Hill's cool classic infusions. Several tunes in Eleonora Claps joins the line up to sing Nina, a Dvorak piece that has been smoothly recast as a searching tango. Claps's supple vocal is perfectly balanced perfectly with Crawford's chords and rallies and Andreas Ticino's percussion adds quiet drama to the canvas. There are no singles as yet on Times And Tides, but their version of Pat Metheny's James would be a plugger's delight. Shorn of its original fusion gilt it is covered as a Latin stroll. The interplay between Hill's melodic picking and Crawford's bell-like rolls echo like a theme tune and 'tis a bliss point for the audience.
The band get the chance to swing a little lead after the flamenco introductions of Gabriel's Message, with drummer Simon Pearson enjoying the chance to break out with some hardy candy drum salvos. The percussion and drum team are vital to this quintet, never letting Crawford's composed style sound too reverential.
The big name guest of the night is UK bossa maestro Duncan Lamont, who with Linley Weir on vocals stir us with a longing version of Jobim's Once I Loved.
Jobim being Brazil's Gershwin is oft covered but Lamont and Weir conjured up the feeling of the real thing going on. A late to the party arrival was Shanti Paul Jayashina whose plaintive flugelhorn led a more explicit jazz edge to things on another Crawford composition, Endgame. After hearing Lamont and Jayashina with the quintet, I had the feeling I would have liked to heard more of them but maybe that's just me as a jazz fan. The evening was concluded with a rousing upbeat finale of Paco de Lucia's Rio Ancho, a live staple of a Crawford show.
Tonight's gig was a was trip to Andalucia with some jazz detours and the audience did not have to leave its seat. Lend your ears to John Crawford's new CD and take the trip for yourselves.
TheJazzMan.com by Ian Mann
“Times and Tides” is the second album as a leader from the versatile London based pianist and composer John Crawford and represents a follow up to 2013’s well received début release “Ulia River of Time”.
Born in London of English/Spanish parentage Crawford has grown up with a love of Latin and South American music. He has worked with a host of leading names in the field of Latin music and was a founding member of the popular band Grupo X. A highly versatile musician Crawford has also worked with an impressive list of UK jazz musicians, including vocalist Katriona Taylor, and has also done pop session work, most notably with Tanita Tikaram. To date he has appeared on over thirty albums across a variety of genres and in 2013 was nominated for an Independent Music Award. His knowledge of Latin piano styles has led to him co-authoring the book “Exploring Latin Piano” with fellow pianist Tim Richards. Crawford is currently a member of -isq, the jazz quartet fronted by vocalist Irene Serra and featuring bass player Richard Sadler and drummer Chris Nickolls.
For “Times and Tides” Crawford has retained the services of guitarist Guille Hill and percussionist Andres Ticino, both of whom appeared on the “Ulia” album. He has also recruited drummer Simon Pearson and his -isq colleague Richard Sadler to complete a core quintet. As on the previous release the album features contributions from a number of guest musicians with this time’s roll call including saxophonist Duncan Lamont, flugelhorn player Shanti Paul Jayasinha and vocalists Linley Weir and Eleonora Claps. The programme is a mix of Crawford originals plus a genre spanning selection of outside material, all of which makes for an interesting, varied and stimulating album.
Things kick off with the Crawford original “Blurred” which introduces the instrumental voices of the core quintet with the leader taking the first solo, the Latin exuberance of his playing balanced by an underlying lyricism. The Uruguayan born Hill follows, his cleanly picked acoustic guitar solo garnished by some tasty flamenco style flourishes. Ticino adds some delightful percussive detail his playing consistently bright, varied and inventive, and there’s also something of a kit feature for Pearson.
The mood is more sombre on an emotive version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Once I Loved”. The melancholy of the lyric finds expression in the measured vocals of Linley Weir and the flowing instrumental solos of Duncan Lamont on saxophone and leader Crawford at the piano.
Crawford’s own “Solea Por Brixton” lightens the mood with a breezy Latin/flamenco celebration of this part of South London. There’s a lithely picked acoustic guitar solo from Hill followed by an elegantly constructed piano feature from the leader as his playing gradually increases in terms of both momentum and intensity. Ticino’s percussion is prominent throughout and there’s something of a feature for him prior to an exuberant coda featuring piano and percussion.
Crawford’s arrangement of the Basque traditional tune “Gabriel’s Message” begins in stately fashion with the duo of Crawford and Hill working in tandem. The music then takes a different turn with the addition of Ticino’s percussion and things become much more lively with some dazzling flamenco style soloing from Hill and a joyous drum and percussion episode mid-tune. Crawford fills the spaces in between and also excels with a torrential solo that is full of ideas and is a good demonstration of his mastery of Latin jazz piano styles.
Perhaps the most intriguing item on the album is “Nini” which takes one of Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances” and re-invents it as a Latin jazz song in an arrangement by Crawford and with Spanish lyrics written and sung by Crawford’s wife Eleonora Claps. The singer gives an assured performance and receives excellent support from the instrumentalists with Crawford the featured soloist. It’s a re-imagining that is thoroughly convincing and one which works very well.
The Crawford original “Miriam’s Last Journey” is dedicated to the memory of Miriam Hyman, a victim of the 7th July 2005 London bombings. However the mood is far from sombre with the bright solos of Crawford and Hill well supported by the buoyant rhythms generated by Ticino, Sadler and Pearson. The essentially upbeat nature of the piece suggests that it is a celebration of Hyman’s life and of the charitable work still being done in her memory by the Miriam Hyman Memorial Trust which runs an eye care centre for disadvantaged children in India.
Pat Metheny’s composition “James” is one of the guitarist’s most popular and adaptable tunes and has been covered by a wide variety of artists across a broad range of jazz genres. Crawford’s version gives the piece a Latin tinge and sees Hill impressing with a neatly picked acoustic guitar solo. Crawford responds well and there’s also an absorbing dialogue between the pair mid tune as the rhythm players temporarily drop out.
The inclusion of “Cono” by the great Malian musician Salf Keita represents another interesting choice. It’s perhaps indicative of Crawford’s interest in all types of music and the links between them. With its mix of Latin and African grooves the piece fits well into the context of the album as a whole and includes a first solo from bassist Richard Sadler, currently of -isq and formerly of the Neil Cowley Trio. There’s also a feature for the percussive duo of Ticino and Pearson.
The album concludes with the Crawford original “Endgame”. One of the leader’s most beautiful and mellifluous compositions the piece features the creamy lyricism of Shanti Paul Jayasinha on flugelhorn as he shares the solos with Crawford. It’s a case of a favour being returned as Crawford once played on Jayasinha’s world jazz album “Round Trip”.
“Times and Tides” represents another impressive solo outing from Crawford. The core quintet is a particularly well balanced ensemble who all perform superbly while each of the guests makes a telling contribution to the tracks on which they appear.
With a larger proportion of original tunes and with Crawford casting his stylistic net wider - although still operating within an essentially Latin framework - “Times and Tides” expands upon the promise of “Ulia River Time” and represents a very worthy successor.
ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM Mark Sullivan
For his second album British pianist/composer John Crawfordcontinues his love of Latin American and Spanish flamenco music, while also incorporating fresh new influences. Crawford's opening original "Blurred" shares a Brazilian heritage with the cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Once I Loved" that follows it. Guitarist Guillermo Hill makes an immediate impression on nylon-string guitar: he's an effective foil to Crawford's piano. The Jobim tune also features sultry vocalist Linley Weir and saxophonist Duncan Lamont Snr.
"Solea por Brixton" (the solea is one of the most basic Flamenco forms) puts a spotlight on drummer Simon Pearson and percussionist Andres Ticino. "Gabriel's Message" changes things up with a traditional Basque folk song, also a great percussion workout. "Nini" makes a Latin jazz tune out of Antonin Dvořák's "Slavonic Dance No. 2," with lyrics by featured vocalist Eleonora Claps. Remarkable how well the tune fits this new rhythmic setting.
Pat Metheny's "James" gets an exciting new arrangement, with Hill's guitar playing again a particular standout, as well as a contrapuntal guitar/piano duet. The final cover is an inspired choice: "Cono" by the great Malian singer Salif Keita, from his debut album Soro(Mango, 1987). A beautiful tune, with an Afropop groove that fits right in with the Latin ones—and it also provides bassist Richard Sadler a great setting for a solo. Crawford's "Endgame" features one last guest, lyrical flugelhornist Shanti Paul Jayasinha.
A very fresh take on Latin jazz. Crawford's Quintet is a hot band, and the guest musicians each contribute something special without dominating the sound.
Track Listing: Blurred; Once I Loved; Solea por Brixton; Gabriel's Message; Nini; Miriam's Last Journey; James; Cono; Endgame.
Personnel: John Crawford: piano; Guillermo Hill: guitar; Richard Sadler: bass; Simon Pearson: drums; Andres Ticino: percussion; Duncan Lamont Snr: saxophone (2); Shanti Paul Jayasinha: flugelhorn (9); Linley Weir: vocals (2); Eleonora Claps: vocals (5).
Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Monpas Records | Style: Latin/World
JAZZWISE MAGAZINE Peter Vacher
ALL ABOUT JAZZ.COM BRUCE LINDSAY
Of all nature's wonders, the river is the one that can most readily encapsulate the passage of time in very human terms. In just a few miles a river moves from the first tentative steps of childhood to the brash, energetic, movements of youth and the meanderings of middle age before it disappears in its old age into the infinity of the ocean. It's a sobering thought. Ulia River Of Time, from British pianist John Crawford, moves part of the way along that path. It sparkles, bursts with energy and calmly meanders by turns, but never sounds old.
This is Crawford's debut album under his own name but he's gained plenty of experience as a sideman and he brings all of it to bear on this recording. He's played with artists from almost every area of the music scene—a list that includes Andy Williams, Bjork, Gilad Atzmon and Billy Bang gives some idea of the breadth of Crawford's expertise.
However, it's with Latin music that he's most deeply involved, working with figures such as Airto Moreira and Jesus Alemany. He's also the author of Exploring Latin Piano (Schott Music, 2010). Ulia River Of Time is a logical extension of that experience and expertise. Originally released in early 2012, its nomination for the twelfth Independent Music Awards (interestingly, in the jazz category rather than Latin) sparked renewed interest in the album.
The musicians are more than sympathetic to Crawford's ideas, their own talents contributing strongly to the album's overall vibe. Guitarists Guille Hill and Jorge Bravo deliver particularly strong performances which are crucial to the album's Latin feel.
For the most part this is an album of strings and skins—piano, bass, guitars and percussion building layers of sound that complement each other and intensify each others sounds and moods. There's one exception and that's Trevor Mires' trombone. Mires makes just one appearance, on Avishai Cohen's "Madrid," but it's a highlight. His energetic, assertive playing and rich, rasping, tone seem to encourage all of his fellow musicians to increase their own energy levels and the result is a truly uplifting performance.
At the other end of the energy and tempo spectrum is Crawford's gentle, flowing, introduction to "Samba do Aviao." This is an exquisite performance: a beautiful three minute solo that typifies the laid-back warmth which pervades this album.
JAZZVIEWS.NET BY EUAN DIXON
If you’re beginning to hanker after some winter sunshine but don’t want to undergo the cost, inconvenience and indignity of travel to somewhere warm you could do worse than treat yourself to this wonderful disc which offers the musical equivalent of a double strength shot of vitamin D. Not that it is in any way mere mood music for there is some serious A* virtuosity on display from everyone concerned, all of whom are inspired by a mutual love of Latin American inflected jazz and the vision of session leader Crawford, an emerging instrumental talent of note as well as being a published authority on the art of Latin piano jazz.
Crawford lays out his musical manifesto in the opening track, a melody of Irakere and Pat Metheny tunes in which he demonstrates his avowed passion for the music of the two Americas. What follows indicates that his interests also take in the music of Spain, Mexico and the Mediterranean which make for a vibrantly rhythmic and melodic cocktail that exudes exotic fragrance.
As well as the core quintet which moves with fluid ease between the various stylistic conventions that comprise the Latin American genre and for which the leader’s piano provides an ever present jazz leitmotiv, there are twoidiomatic vocals from Emma Blackman one which is a song by Avishai Cohen sung convincing in what sounds like a Hebrew dialect and features some deliciously blousy trombone obligatti from another of Crawford’s guests, Trevor Mires. Elsewhere an alternative guitar sound by Jorge Bravo provides some tonal variation as well as another example of peerless dexterity.
As well as tunes by Jobim, Nascimento and the aforementioned Cohen, there is a stately, flamenco inspired original by Crawford which demonstrates his mastery of the idiom but my personal favourite is their version of that insinuatingly seductive classic, `Estate` which will keep me hitting the repeat button for some time to come.
THEJAZZMAN.COM BY IAN MANN
Born in London of English/Spanish parentage pianist John Crawford has grown up with a love of Latin and South American music. He has worked with a host of leading names in the field of Latin music and was a founding member of the popular band Grupo X. A highly versatile musician Crawford has also worked with an impressive list of UK jazz musicians and has also done pop session work, most notably with Tanita Tikaram. His knowledge of Latin piano styles has led to him co-authoring the book “Exploring Latin Piano” with fellow pianist Tim Richards. Crawford is currently a member of ISQ, a new jazz quartet fronted by vocalist Irene Serra and featuring bass player Richard Sadler, once of the Neil Cowley Trio.
“Ulia River of Time” is Crawford’s recording début as a leader and is a reflection of his love of Latin and South American music. Encompassing a range of Latin and other styles the programme consists of covers of tunes by leading jazz and Latin composers with “Flower of the Levant” the sole original tune. Crawford has chosen his selection of covers well and the result is a warm, bright album with excellent playing from a core quintet consisting of Guille Hill (recently described by the London Jazz Blog as the best Uruguayan guitarist in London) , percussionist Aandres Ticino, bassist Gili Lopes and drummer Eduardo Marques. There are guest slots for vocalist Emma Blackman, guitarist Jorge Bravo and Crawford’s ex Grupo X colleague Trevor Mires on trombone.
The album commences with “Irakere/Metheny Medley”, an attractive segue of Irakere’s “Flutes Notes”, written by pianist Chucho Valdes, and guitarist Pat Metheny’s “Finding and Believing” from his “Secret Story” album. This bright and breezy opener features the authentic Latin rhythms of Ticino and Crawford and the nimble acoustic guitar picking of Hill. Crawford’s exuberant soloing displays a thorough knowledge of Latin idioms as the album gets off to a winning start.
Crawford’s own “Flower of the Levant” is more lyrical with further excellent playing from Crawford and (presumably) guest guitarist Bravo with Ticino again adding convincing percussion shadings alongside Bravo’s flamenco flavourings. It’s a piece that wouldn’t appear out of place in the repertoire of guitarist Jonny Phillips’ group Oriole, which coming from me is praise indeed.
“Madrid”, written by bassist Avishai Cohen, features the sometimes lilting, sometimes soaring voice of Emma Blackman who sings the Spanish lyrics alongside the rich, fruity trombone of fellow guest Trevor Mires. There’s also a passage of mellifluous wordless vocalising plus a good natured exchange of ideas between Crawford and Mires that can’t fail to win over the listener.
Crawford dedicates the song “Mi Chiquita”, originally recorded by Inti Illimani, to his childhood friend from Chile, Estela Espindola de Carrasco. It’s a beautiful tribute to the person who first inspired Crawford’s love of South America and its music with features for Crawford, Hill, Lopes and Ticino.
Brazilian music is prominent on Crawford’s musical radar as a joyous, lovely interpretation of Milton Nascimento’s “Anima” makes clear with Bravo, Crawford and Ticino again fulfilling key roles. The pianist and guitarist both contribute dazzling, exuberant solos.
Staying in Brazil “Cortina” (credited to Vasconcelos/Sherer, I’m assuming that’s percussionist/vocalist Nana Vasconcelos) offers a gentler but no less enjoyable look at that country’s music with Crawford and Bravo again in sparkling form with Ticino continuing to add vivid splashes of percussive colour.
“Ladino Song” was originally recorded in 2004 by KT Tunstall’s former band Oi Va Voi. Here Emma Blackman sings the mix of English and Spanish lyrics. She gives an assured performance of quiet intensity and her contribution is matched by the instrumentalists, particularly leader Crawford who delivers a beautifully constructed solo. There’s also a feature for drummer Eduardo Marques who briefly steps out of his well judged supportive role.
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Samba do Aviado” takes us back to Brazil with Crawford’s thoughtful and imaginative solo piano improvisation opening the piece. The group then breeze through the the body of the tune with a further solo from Crawford and with Hill enjoying a rare outing on electric guitar.
Crawford casts his net yet wider with a rollicking version of “Erghen Diado” by the Bulgarian songwriter Petar Lyondev. There’s some scintillating piano from the leader as the band, with Lopes on electric bass, lay down some mighty Balkan grooves culminating in a further drum feature from Marques. Invigorating stuff.
“Penas Luz” (Caravedo/Robles) lowers the temperature slightly but there’s still some sparkling player from the leader above a springy bass groove and the delicate patter of percussion.
“Estate” (Brighetti/Martino) places an even greater focus on lyricism with Hill’s gently picked acoustic guitar and Crawford’s flowing piano to the fore.
The album closes with “Rio Ancho” (“Wide River”) by the flamenco guitarist Sanchez Gomez. It represents a rousing conclusion with cajon driven solos from Hill on acoustic guitar, Lopes on acoustic bass and Crawford at the piano with the latter in particularly impressive form on a wonderfully percussive and exuberant closing statement.
“Ulia River of Time” is a hugely enjoyable album. Although Crawford contributes only one original tune his choice of material to cover is inspired, every piece is highly melodic and Crawford’s arrangements are consistently bright and inventive. In his notes Crawford thanks his band mates, referring to them as “Galacticos”, and he’s right, the quintet really do sound great together, something enhanced by the production team of engineers Jim Gross, Dick Hammett and Andy La Fone plus producer Crawford. Reports also suggest that the quintet is easily capable of carrying the qualities displayed on the album into their live performances. Perhaps the closest UK parallel to this album is bassist Alec Dankworth’s excellent Spanish Accents project, a stellar line up that also delivered the goods live and on album with a similarly inspired choice of outside material.
At around seventy minutes long the Crawford album represents great value for money. Hopefully he will be able to keep this line up together to record a second album with a greater focus on original material. I was tempted to dock half a star for a lack of original content but these performances are so appealing that I suspect this album may continue to be regular visitor to my turntable and as such can be very much recommended to other listeners.
LONDONJAZZNEWS.COM BY KAI HOFFMAN
From beat one of the album-launch at the 606 last month, I couldn’t wait to hear John Crawford’s new recording. The live gig had me engrossed, and I didn’t want it to end. With "Ulía River of Time," John and his band have achieved a rare feat, and have captured the kinetic energy of their live performance.
Just as on stage, this recording immediately insists upon the listener’s complete and undivided attention. You are transported to an exotic land of delicate beauty, majestic landscapes and wild intensity.
'Rio Ancho', originally written by Flamenco guitar master Sanchez Gomez is a particularly shining example of John’s virtuosic Latin-piano expertise. With 'Erghen Diado', John masterfully translates an intricate Bulgarian choral arrangement into a vast, electrically-charged instrumental soundscape, whilst 'Mi Chiquita' is an ethereal beauty – painting evocative pictures of faraway destinations. 'Madrid', one of two vocal tracks on the album, is truly poignant, with guests Emma Blackman(vocals) and Trevor Mires (trombone) delivering heart-felt performances of this unusual tune by Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen. 'Flower of the Levant', John Crawford’s original tune on the album, showcases entrancing communication between the players, with special guest Jorge Bravo on guitar.
For those of us in desperate need of winter sun, Ulía River of Time is the next best thing to flying off on a round-the-world tour, a journey I look forward to making many more times.
USER REVIEWS FROM AMAZON.COM
"We went to see John play at the 606 Club last week and it was brilliant. This album is amazing but we've also now heard some new numbers so are eager to know if there is to be a new album. Quite brilliant...."
FROM PHILIP LAMOND
"Beautiful blend off Latin and Spanish flamenco themes, with virtuosic playing to go with it. Love it!"
"Beautiful music - played with spirit and love!"
SEE ALL REVIEWS FROM AMAZON HERE.