Sam Crowe ‘Towards The Centre of Everything’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

SAM-CROW-FINAL4Bristol born pianist and leader Sam Crowe studied jazz at Trinity College of Music where he graduated from in 2006 and has since performed and recorded with a who’s who of the new generation of jazz musicians and these include both vocalist Gretchen Parlato and instrumentalist Julian Siegel. Crowe’s compositional skills have been honed via film soundtrack work and this may go some way to explaining why his second album (Synaesthesia’ from 2010 being the first) and debut for the ever inventive Whirlwind label is such an accomplished one. Some of New York’s finest young musicians have been enlisted for the session which was recorded in the Big Apple and the all original compositions are deceptively simple, yet immediately infectuous and that bodes well for the future. What adds real variety to proceedings is the constant shifting of formation from acoustic trio plus saxophone to fender rhodes plus guitar (with the odd vocal contribution). On the gentle waltz-like piece ‘Lydia’ Crowe performs in acoustic trio format with soprano saxophone from Adam Waldmann, and piano and soprano work beautifully in unison. The vocal number ‘Back into the earth’ features wordless vocals from Emilia Martensen and the addition of electric guitar recalls the late 1980s Brazilian-inspired music of the Pat Metheny group and this is reinforced on the staccato rhythm of ’64 (Interlude)’ with a repeated piano riff and some neat Metheny guitar licks. Sam Crowe seems to have been strongly influenced by 1970s jazz-rock and on the mid-tempo blues-inflected title track there is some inspired guitar soloing from British newcomer Will Davies that is reminiscent of John Scofield. A definite 1970s retro groove is cooked up on ‘The global brain’ with Crowe this time reverting to fender and this mid-tempo number is quite dark and moody in parts with some delicate drumming from Mark Giuliana. In a straighter ahead jazz vein a melodic soprano enters on the intro to the deeply lyrical ‘Gaia’ with guitar playing a largely supportive role and Crowe should focus on this aspect of the band’s overall style. A well rounded set, then and decidely promising future lies ahead for Sam Crowe.

Tim Stenhouse