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George Crowley quartet, Coronation Tap, 29 May

May 30, 2012

A real treat to have a band of this quality visiting to play the atmospheric-but-uncomfortable Corrie. We had Ivo Neame on a tiny electric piano instead of the concert grand his skills really deserve, though it nevertheless produced a good sound; Calum Gourlay on Bass and James Maddren on drums – all frequent associates although the bassist and drummer are more often heard with Kit Downes, who plays (proper) piano on Crowley’s excellent CD Paper Universe.

And the leader met the challenge of playing in this company admirably. He is one of those accomplished young players who has eaten up many styles but still sounds like his own man. Comparisons have already been made with Warne Marsh and Julian Arguelles (I hear him, too). I fancied he’s also spent time studying Joe Henderson – different tone, but definitely something in the phrasing.

The quartet worked superbly on his compositions – Maddren’s wonderfully aerated drumming lending an irresistible bouyancy, as usual. Neame did sterling work, though Downes’ piano on the recording seems to suit the mood of the tunes more. And Crowley’s tenor was long-lined and deft in avoidance of cliche up tempo, emotionally gripping on ballads.

Standout tunes from the recorded set included B Flat Man, a tribute to Ornette, and Marty McFly, a bebop tune that manages to sound fresh. The second set was enlivened by gig organiser James Gardiner-Bateman, who joined on alto for a couple of standards – Monk’s We See and one of those bebop tunes, you know, that one… The two horns played off each other satisfyingly on both, and a good time was had by all.

They had more to play, but the venue wanted a halt – understandably given the lateness of the hour. We’d heard enough though to file Crowley away as yet another outstanding young generation player and writer. If he can manage to make a living, we will hear a lot more from him, I’m sure. Me, I’m playing the CD now.

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