Towards The Centre Of Everything
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4632)
There is a book review in today’s Guardian which is headlined “How pop culture sold out”. In it John Harris asks: “Why do music and TV no longer challenge the establishment?”
If you want to hear culture that hasn’t sold out, then modern, young, British jazz has it by the bucketload. And if you want to hear music that challenges the way the establishment, and modern life, wishes to commodify art, then you have come to right place with this Sam Crowe Group album.
It’s not that Crowe and his music overtly rails against the idea of music as product, they just opt out of that game altogether. As Sam says in the cover note: “Anyone who has truly connected with music realises that, unlike consumables, there is a deeper level of connection that is felt in the body which allows the soul to ‘remember’ that we all… sprung from the same source.”
So, what does music that hasn’t sold out, that won’t play the establishment’s game, sound like? Gorgeous, in a word.
There are a lot of CDs that pass from in-tray to out on thejazzbreakfast desk, and while a great many of them contain excellent music there is sometimes the feeling that too often it is music that can be more easily admired than loved. Not so here.
I feel a real passion for this album, and in part that is for the selfish reason that it just makes me feel so damned good. Perhaps also it is a natural response to the passion that flows from it. It is not unintellectual, my any means. There are tricky rhythms, and twists and turns in the melodies that are not easy to negotiate. But there is rich feeling that flows through and an optimism – a joy in creating – that lifts the spirits, and makes the world seem a more beautiful place.
With Crowe on piano are an Anglo-American band of Will Vinson and Adam Waldmann on saxophones, Will Davies on guitar, Alan Hampton on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. Singer Emilia Martensson joins for one track.
The rhythms are springy and Hampton continues where Jasper Hoiby left off in Crowe’s first album, Synaesthesia (the tune The Global Brain from that album is reworked here). The pairing in melody of Vinson and Davies often recalls the Brecker/Metheny partnership. Crowe and Guiliana are terrific and Waldmann is his usual exacting, lyrical self.
The playing, then, is not only exemplary, it is inspired, too, and I suspect that key to that inspiration is Crowe’s vision and his great compositions. They have melodies, counter-melodies, contrasting grooves, some great codas, rich textures and the kind of multi-layered depths that intrigue and go on intriguing in different ways with each new listen.
I won’t single out any particular tracks – the album works as a wonderful whole.
Want to be cheered up? Want out of the corrupt, soulless, commodified, unfeeling, number-obsessed, money fixated, fearful, prejudiced superficiality that is today’s Western existence? Buy Towards The Centre Of Everything, press play and escape to a wholly better world!
Here is a taste: