The John Crawford Latin Quartet play Chichester Jazz Club

Chichester Jazz Club has not featured a Latin ensemble for some seven years or so and when they last did, it was John Crawford who led the band: why so long? This was a terrific evening of Latin infused jazz with hints of Spanish and a Bulgarian folk inspired number for good measure.

John Crawford led from the piano with guitarist Guillermo Hill for good company. Alec Dankworth stood alongside his double bass with Simon Pearson behind the drums and the excellent Andres Ticino adding all the additional percussion sounds associated with Latin jazz. Much of the music came from previously released albums (Ulia River of Time from 2012, and 2016’s Times and Tides, both of which are available from Bandcamp) plus a number from the forthcoming release Room For Dancing.

From L – R John Crawford – piano, Alec Dankworth – bass, Guillermo Hill – guitar, Simon Pearson – drums, Andres Ticino – percussion. Photograph by Mike Parry

The evening began with ‘Blurred’ from Times and Tides, a very good ensemble number that sounded playful, jaunty. The song had a Mediterranean feel, particularly through the guitar work of Guillermo Hill. A tribute to Milton Nascimento in the form of Anima had a nice relaxed Brazilian style opening before morphing in to something more punchy and vibrant before falling back in to that relaxed style apparent in the opening bars – great interplay between piano and guitar. Tune number three was ‘Flower of The Levant’, a multi layered piece of changing rhythmic patterns, tonal colours and textures, and a wonderful guitar solo: so much delivered in one piece of music.

The following two tracks were written by John for his daughters and will feature on the new album out later in the year. The first, ‘Mika’s (?) Dance’, felt like a portrayal of how a young child might dance: not fluid but full of fun, personal and done like there is no-one watching. ‘Elena’s Dance’ is built on a very simple sounding bass ostinato with tune developing as the piano is added bringing depth to the tune. The number is supplemented by a very good bass line from Alec Dankworth and well-delivered drum patterns from Simon Pearson.

‘Gabriels Message’, with its Spanish influence front and centre, starts gently but then the energy levels and the vibrancy of the playing builds as the tempo picks up. There is a wonderful drum break supported with strong chordal playing from John on this exciting number. Pat Metheny’s composition ‘James’ with a flamenco arrangement featured next from this quintet. Again, the interplay between John and Guillermo was a delight to listen to with the guitar providing the central theme around which John plays his own lines. The first set ends with ‘Solea Por Brixton’ with its hand clapped intro over-which the guitarist establishes the tune’s refrain. Pianist and guitarist swap around on the melody as the composition moves one way and then another.

The second set opened with ‘Club del Campesino’ played by piano, bass and percussion. Starting in the Cuban Son rhythm it finishes as a Cha Cha: simplistic in style but very effective in sound. Next came a tune written for cellist Shirley Smart, ‘Bow and Codeine’, that starts with a spacious sounding bass and piano to which drums and percussion are added. The melody was beautiful and the bass solo excellent with guitar in support – this tune will feature on the forthcoming album and I can’t wait to hear it with the cello sound. ‘Blossom’ followed with its bright, hopeful, enthusiastic tone. This number skipped along with an almost childlike naivety anchored by a solid drummed beat from Simon Pearson.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Samba do Aviao’ saw John Crawford take the lead with a great solo played off a series of pianistic runs before the ensemble came together around the tune’s melody. A good strong bass line from Alec Dankworth and a distinctive, bright toned guitar solo from Guillermo Hill on this lovely mid-tempo Latin theme. Next came what for me was the evenings standout track, ‘Polegnole’ or ‘Poleg Nole’. This is a Bulgarian tune and a very different sound profile to what has been heard so far. There is a definite central European folk feel to this number and the most fascinatingly intricate drum solo with various rhythmic patterns brought in to play without losing site of the main folk-like theme.

‘Endgame’, with its piano/guitar theme tune sound, had a laid back feel to it delivered with a rumba styling. Percussionist Andres Ticino got to have his musical say and did not waste a moment of his spell in the spotlight. This brought us to the final track of the evening, ‘Rio Ancho’ (a version of which you can hear in the video, recorded at The 606 Club, at the end of this post). This was a terrific upbeat Latin number on which to close out the second set with its hand clapped rhythms, wonderful bass playing and a final chance to hear just how good a pianist John Crawford is.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of Latin infused jazz from a band leader who clearly knows and loves his stuff. The musicians working alongside him were first class each adding something quite special to the overall sound. I hope it is not another seven years before Latin jazz returns to Chichester Jazz Club but if John Crawford is not available I might suggest John Harriman’s Heads South, another fine musician with a head full of the Latin stuff.


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