Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Laurence Crane: Natural World


Laurence Crane: Natural World


Sign in to view read count
Laurence Crane: Natural World
Compared to the number of albums which many jazz or improvising musicians release, it can often be an eye-opener to glance at the discography of musicians from other genres. For example, although composer Laurence Crane was born in Oxford in 1961, is Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and his music is frequently performed, recorded and broadcast in the UK and elsewhere, Natural World is only the seventh album to feature his music since his first outing was released in 2008.

Unlike Crane's only previous Another Timbre release, Chamber Works 1992-2009 (2014), a two-disc album featuring fourteen pieces written over eighteen years, Natural World only comprises the three-part title piece. With a running time of fifty-five minutes, the music was commissioned by the British soprano and Casio keyboard player Juliet Fraser plus pianist and electronicist Mark Knoop. Recorded in December 2022 at City, University of London, and produced and edited by Knoop, the piece was performed by Fraser and Knoop alone.

The piece begins simply and distinctively with "Field Guide." Single piano notes ring out, punctuated by silences, some prolonged. Gradually the notes become denser, and chords are detectable. This intro conjures up images of Crane sitting alone at the piano, playing around, searching for melodic lines—successfully, given the end product. It is not until a third of the way through the first section that Fraser puts in an appearance. In line with the Green-friendly nature of the composition, she sings encyclopedic information about breeds of birds, soon reinforced by occasional field recordings of real birdsong. As an introduction, the combination of piano, voice and birds is enchanting and very listenable. After a seamless transition, those strengths remain in the second section, "Chorus," which is a fitting title as the field recordings of birds are present throughout and are from an actual dawn chorus. The piano remains the backbone of the piece, undramatic but effective throughout. Fraser's voice sings wordless sounds which fit perfectly with the piano and birds in another successful section.

Another smooth transition leads to the third section, "Seascape." As its title suggests, the subject matter of this section is the sea and its contents. One line recurs throughout it, "A strange place of beauty, the edge of the sea." In addition to singing those lyrics, Fraser also sings and recites information about sea flora and fauna as well reciting sea-related poetry. As accompaniment, the piano is replaced by synthesized sine tones. One daring passage, lasting about four minutes, consists entirely of field recordings of waves breaking. The following exchange between Crane and Another Timbre's Simon Reynell is significant:

Crane: "I think there's a strong vein of melancholy in my music generally..."

Reynell: "It wouldn't appear on Another Timbre if there wasn't..."

Crane: "I am drawn to melancholy and it's bubbling under the surface in most of my music."

Natural World is a welcome reminder of just how beautiful melancholy can be.

Track Listing

Natural World (Field Guide); Natural World (Chorus); Natural World (Seashore).


Additional Instrumentation

Juliet Fraser: Casio keyboard; Mark Knoop: electronics

Album information

Title: Natural World | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Another Timbre



For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


DDG19 Big Band
Dani Gurgel
Nick Finzer
Speak Moment
Dave Harrington - Max Jaffe - Patrick Shiroishi
Garza / Fawcett / Wojtowicz


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.