CD REVIEW: Sam Crockatt - Mells Bells

Sam Crockatt - Mells Bells
(Whirlwind Records WR4681. CD review by Mike Collins)

The first chiming notes of Canon are an arresting opening to this dynamic and engaging album from saxophonist Sam Crockatt’s formidable quartet. The tenor’s phrase is echoed first by Kit Downes on piano, then Oli Hayhurst’s bass, followed by James Maddren’s drums before they accelerate and the band burst into life with an expansive solo from Downes over a restless groove from Maddren and Hayhurst.

The whole set is bubbling with energy and momentum. Crockatt’s compositions make the most of finely crafted and distilled ideas. Masterplan ups the temperature, a rollicking, shuffling, rocky groover launched by a theme full of snappy hooks and hits. The leader builds a storming solo from first, bluesy fragments, then spiralling runs, really digging into the groove. Downes is constantly goading and playing off him, before letting rip. I found you in the Jam unfolds from a declamatory, rubato theme, with first the piano then the tenor leading the whole band through a collective clattering lament. Mells Bells is built round a frenetic, spiralling figure spinning off into tumult, Maddren whipping it along with a boiling, relentless, barrage. Breath is tense and suspenseful, full of beautifully judged hesitations and delicate phrases. A Stroll on the Knoll is a trio take making the most of the gutsy roar and bite in Crockatt’s sound, a propulsive, impassioned performance with motifs and phrases changing shape as Hayhurst and Maddren follow every step of his jagged rythmic phrasing. The Land That Time Forget evolves more slowly from another ear tweaking, melodic phrase into a rolling climatic piece, Downes letting fly again with dazzling melodic flights.

This an excellent set from a quartet who are finely tuned to each other’s every move. It has the immediacy and vibrancy of a live performance and Sam Crockatt’s eight originals are a great vehicle for their melodic fluency and invention. Go and see this band.

Launch Tour Dates

2nd February 2016 – Pizza Express, London
3rd February 2016 – Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich
18th April 2016 – Beaver Inn, Appledore
19th April 2016 – St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
20th April 2016 – Restormel Arts, St Austell
21st April 2016 – The Blue Boar, Poole
24th April 2016 – Burdall’s Yard – Bath
23rd April 2016 – The Meeting House, Ilminster
30th June 2016 – The Spin Oxford

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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