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On the evidence of its debut, Connections, the New York-based Jon Crowley Quintet has huge potential. The ten tracks, all composed by leader and trumpeter Crowley, are immediately accessible but have sufficient depth and complexity to reward repeated listening. The band's technical ability is uniformly strong, but technique never takes precedence over an emotional connection with the musicthe result is a mature and thoughtful album that belies the youth and relative inexperience of the musicians.
Although Crowley is the group's leader and composer, as well as the album's producer, he by no means overwhelms the other players. Indeed, he doesn't take a solo on the opening tune, the post-bop style "Connections," giving the album's first solo spot to alto saxophonist John Beaty and the second to pianist Yayoi Ikawa. Crowley's first solo appears on the beautiful "Momentum," which opens with Crowley and Beaty playing contrasting but complementary melodies, before Crowley takes the spotlight with a warm and lyrical performance.
"Bass Intro," as the title suggests, is a brief track consisting of a bass solo from Peter Schwebs which moves seamlessly into "Tabula Rasa," on which Crowley's solo and Nick Anderson's drums in particular suggest Middle Eastern influences. By contrast, "Vista" is a brighter, more upbeat tune that opens strongly with a funky, Horace Silver
-ish melody. Beaty and Crowley then trade phrasesfor slightly too longbefore Ikawa's bright and delicate piano solo. The most up-tempo tune on the CD, "Right Now," has the drive and immediacy suggested by its title and features a tight, precise solo from Beaty. This suddenly cuts to Anderson's inventive drum solo before the ensemble returns for the tune's closing bars.
Sound quality on the album is outstandingthere is a brightness to the recording that enables all of the instruments to be heard clearly and distinctly. In fact, from the packaging to the mastering this is an impressive debut. Crowley's strong compositions coupled with the musical talents of all five band members make Connections a first album to be proud of.
Track Listing: Connections; Momentum; Bass Intro; Tabula Rasa; Vista; Ambrosia; Icarus; Right Now; City Mood; Decision.
Personnel: Jon Crowley: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Beaty: alto saxophone; Yayoi Ikawa: piano; Peter Schwebs: bass; Nick Anderson: drums.