Sam Crockatt Quartet – Mells Bells

mells bells(Whirlwind Recordings)

Among the many fine recordings coming out of the younger British scene, this feels like one of the most mature yet. Tenor saxophonist Sam Crockatt has an R-R of a band with Kit Downes on piano, Oli Hayhurst on double bass and James Maddren on drums.

All the tunes are by Crockatt, it was recorded the old-fashioned way over a single day and it has that fresh feel – the immediacy and energy of a live performance captured in the superior sonic surroundings of a studio.

Canon introduces the band in canon form and then romps along, revealing Crockatt’s big, solid tone and flowing melodic improvising as well as the comfortable way the band interacts, Downes taking the solo baton from Crockatt’s head with easy grace. The saxophonist writes strong tunes that weave themselves naturally into improvisations.

Sam Crockatt

Sam Crockatt

The Masterplan ups the energy level and I Found You In The Jam gives Hayhurst the intro against a skittering brushed beat before the band enters in free-ish time. The title track stems from church bell ringing, and tumbles and falls in repeating, overlapping patterns in appropriately complex metres. Breath feels a bit like a Monk ballad.

A Stroll On The Knoll lets Crockatt and Maddren at each other in one of those classic tenor/drums stand-offs, while Tiny Steps. Top Of The Mountain has a lazy feel, the melody snaking over a brushed rhythm, Downes’ solo marvellously unhurried and full of high altitude fresh air.

The Land That Time Forgot has a melody that I can’t quite remember but that sounds tantalisingly like something I have heard before. It’s a fitting closer to an album that deserves wide acclaim. It really does have lots to offer not only those who like to keep their finger on the pulse of contemporary British jazz but also those who keep going back to the classic acoustic quartets of modern jazz’s past.

  • The Sam Crockatt Quartet launched Mells Bells at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho last night and is playing Anteros Arts in Norwich tonight. There are more dates around England in April. See Sam’s website for details here.

Categories: CD review

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