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.
John Crawford - piano
Guillermo Hill - guitar
Andrew Ticino - percussion
Richard Sadler - bass
Simon Pearson - drums
Linley Weir - vocals
Duncan Lamont - saxophone
Shanti Paul Jayasinha - flugelhorn
Eleonara Claps - vocals