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Sam Crockatt: Mells Bells

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Sam Crockatt: Mells Bells
"Canon" opens with precisely that musical device, piano and tenor sax chasing each other around until, changing tempo, the tune cleverly morphs into a moderately-paced melodically memorable number. Pianist Kit Downes offers some truly swinging piano followed by Sam Crockatt on articulate tenor saxophone, perhaps redolent in tone of the late Booker Ervin. Both funky and boppy "The Masterplan" benefits from an engaging rhythm held down by James Maddren's drums and some fast hairpin changes. Oli Hayhurst leads off on the wistful "I Found You In The Jam," fulsomely displaying his virtuosic bass playing.

"Mells Bells" is a frenetically fast moving number with a memorable head, propelled from the outset and with great energy by James Maddren's fearsome drumming. "Breath" is a slow pastoral piece, characterised by Crockatt's tenor explorations, occasionally visiting higher registers of the sax, whilst maintaining an elegant sensitivity throughout.

"A Stroll On The Knoll" is a brilliant trio piece, combing both harmony and rhythm despite the absence of Downes on piano. Crockatt and the highly talented bassist Oli Hayhurst initially take up the melody in unison, and there's even something of the raw refinement of Jack Bruce's seminal album Things We Like. "Tiny Steps, Top Of The Mountain" is a throwback to earlier times. A relaxed number which might not have seemed out of place in Duke Ellington's repertoire. It's anachronistic romanticism is almost anomalous within this set but its effect is no less satisfying than the rest of the tracks here.

The languid start to "The Land That Time Forgot"—the longest track on the album at nearly nine minutes—is countered by a more strident and faster-paced middle section, dominated by Crockatt's confident tenor and Downes' fluid piano. As a bookend to the beginning, the piece resolves in its final minute with a diminuendo mirroring its opening statement.

All the tracks on this recording are penned by Crockatt who leads an exceptionally gifted group of musicians gelling together remarkably well and it's astonishing that the album was recorded in just one day London in October 2014. This is yet another excellent example of evidence that British jazz is not merely alive and well, but kicking too.

Track Listing

Canon; The Masterplan; I Found You In The Jam; Mells Bells; Breath; A Stroll On The Knoll; Tiny Steps, Top Of The Mountain; The Land That Time Forgot.

Personnel

Sam Crockatt: tenor saxophone; Kit Downes: piano; Oli Hayhurst: double bass; James Maddren: drums.

Album information

Title: Mells Bells | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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