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John Crawford: Ulia River of Time

Bruce Lindsay By

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Of all nature's wonders, the river is the one that can most readily encapsulate the passage of time in very human terms. In just a few miles a river moves from the first tentative steps of childhood to the brash, energetic, movements of youth and the meanderings of middle age before it disappears in its old age into the infinity of the ocean. It's a sobering thought. Ulia River Of Time, from British pianist John Crawford, moves part of the way along that path. It sparkles, bursts with energy and calmly meanders by turns, but never sounds old.

This is Crawford's debut album under his own name but he's gained plenty of experience as a sideman and he brings all of it to bear on this recording. He's played with artists from almost every area of the music scene—a list that includes Andy Williams, Bjork, Gilad Atzmon and Billy Bang gives some idea of the breadth of Crawford's expertise.

However, it's with Latin music that he's most deeply involved, working with figures such as Airto Moreira and Jesus Alemany. He's also the author of Exploring Latin Piano (Schott Music, 2010). Ulia River Of Time is a logical extension of that experience and expertise. Originally released in early 2012, its nomination for the twelfth Independent Music Awards (interestingly, in the jazz category rather than Latin) sparked renewed interest in the album.

The musicians are more than sympathetic to Crawford's ideas, their own talents contributing strongly to the album's overall vibe. Guitarists Guille Hill and Jorge Bravo deliver particularly strong performances which are crucial to the album's Latin feel.

For the most part this is an album of strings and skins—piano, bass, guitars and percussion building layers of sound that complement each other and intensify each others sounds and moods. There's one exception and that's Trevor Mires' trombone. Mires makes just one appearance, on Avishai Cohen's "Madrid," but it's a highlight. His energetic, assertive playing and rich, rasping, tone seem to encourage all of his fellow musicians to increase their own energy levels and the result is a truly uplifting performance.

At the other end of the energy and tempo spectrum is Crawford's gentle, flowing, introduction to "Samba do Aviao." This is an exquisite performance: a beautiful three minute solo that typifies the laid-back warmth which pervades this album.

Track Listing: Irakere / Metheny Medley; Flower of The Levant; Madrid; Mi Chiquita; Anima; Cortina; Ladino Song; Samba do Aviao; Erghen Diado; Penas Luz; Estate; Rio Ancho.

Personnel: John Crawford: piano; Guille Hill: guitar; Gili Lopes: bass; Andres Ticino: percussion; Eduardo Marques: drums; Emma Blackman: vocals (3, 7); Jorge Bravo: guitar (2, 5, 6); Trevor Mires; trombone (3).

Title: Ulia River of Time | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Monpas Records

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