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George Crowley: Can Of Worms

Bruce Lindsay By

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A tin full of slimy, wriggly, things bursts open, scaring the oddly mismatched young couple. It's not your usual jazz album cover art, but it suits the title of the second album from young UK saxophonist George Crowley—Can Of Worms—and Crowley carries on the motif with further creepy-crawlies on the inside of the sleeve. Not that such visuals give too much away about the music—Crowley keeps that as a (pleasant) surprise.

Crowley's band (which also seems to be called Can Of Worms) is anchored by the ever-reliable bass and drums of Sam Lasserson and Jon Scott. Alongside the young tenor player on the frontline is—another young tenor player. The twin-tenor frontline works really well. Crowley (in the left channel) and Tomas Challenger (in the right channel) don't sound too dissimilar— Crowley's tone is perhaps a little drier—so when both men play together the instruments are in sympathy, rather than vying for supremacy.

Bandleader and composer Crowley has a neat line in whimsical tune titles. This particular can of worms is opened by "The Opener"—as logic demands. It's a ten minute track that mixes brief episodes of prog-rock riffage (early King Crimson springs to mind) with sinuous, interwoven, sax lines and Dan Nicholls' assertive piano phrases.

The remaining tunes eschew prog (except for a few seconds, late in "Rum Paunch"), but encompass a broad stylistic range. Nicholls starts "Whirl" with a gentle, musical box, Wurlitzer introduction—it's easy to visualise the little plastic ballerina twirling atop the mirrored floor. The tune gets a restrained performance from the band, Scott delivering most of the energy without going over the top. "Rum Paunch"—the more refined gentleman's beer gut—builds slowly around Lasserson's bass line until it delivers some of the tenors' most raucous playing. The relatively brief "I'm Not Here To Reinvent The Wheel" is a lively bebop-cum-freeform workout featuring solos from both sax players and there's plenty more bop to be heard on "Ubiquitous Up Tune In 3" which features the album's catchiest hook and Crowley's finest solo.

Stylistically, Can Of Worms hasn't moved too far from Crowley's debut, the quartet album Paper Universe (Whirlwind Records, 2012). However, Challenger's additional sax gives the tunes a richer sound and Crowley's writing has moved a little further from the mainstream into more varied and artistically exciting territory. It all bodes well for the future, with Crowley's development as a player and writer promising much.

Track Listing: The Opener; Whirl; Ubiquitous Up Tune In 3; Rum Paunch; I'm Not Here To Reinvent The Wheel; Terminal; T-Leaf.

Personnel: George Crowley: tenor saxophone; Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone; Dan Nicholls: piano, Wurlitzer; Sam Lasserson: double bass; Jon Scott: drums.

Title: Can Of Worms | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd


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