Sam Crockatt Quartet: Flood Tide (2011)
The Sam Crockatt Quartet's first album, Howeird (Loop Records, 2008), garnered much critical praise, and won Best Album in the 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Its second album, Flood Tide, therefore, has a lot to live up to, so it's to this young quartet's credit that Flood Tide keeps up the early momentum, with a combination of great original tunes and tight, imaginative musicianship.
There's one change to the quartet that appeared on the debut recording, with Kit Downes replacing Gwilym Simcock on piano. The change replaces one of the most in-demand musicians on the British jazz scene with another one, but for the most part there isn't a major shift in style, although Downes is perhaps a little more idiosyncratic in his approach and more likely to create a few surprises. Crockatt is still in charge, with the lion's share of the writing, and Downes is sufficiently talented and confident that he slips readily into the group.
The album begins in sprightly fashion with Downes' "Sun And Moon." The tune skips and hops, drummer Ben Reynolds and bassist Oli Hayhurst giving it a cheery bounce. The rest of the tunes are Crockatt's own. "The Golden Goose," which Crockatt dedicates to his tenor saxophone, is a beautifully fluid tune, mid-tempo but with a relaxed feel. Hayhurst's solo is strong, and the saxophonist's own playing flows gracefully. Crockatt starts "King Apple" with a few bars of unaccompanied saxophone, before Hayhurst and Reynolds join him in some crisp, sharp, bop-ish interplay.
"The Ridgeway" is the collection's most straight-ahead number. Downes' chunky chordal play and Reynolds drums create a driving rhythm, Hayhurst adds a repetitive groove which Downes echoes, while Crockatt's saxophone is at its ripest. "Theodore's Spring Song" is an intriguing composition that moves between phases of tight, funky, rhythms and freer, more open and improvised passages. Reynolds' percussion again stands out, with complex, inventive work that weaves smoothly into Crockatt's lead lines.
Flood Tide keeps the Sam Crockatt Quartet at the top of the every-growing heap of young British jazz bands. Inventive and, at times, complex, the music remains melodic and accessible, and the band, part of the influential and always intriguing Loop Collective, continues to build a strong identity.
Track Listing: Sun And Moon; Trilogy; The Golden Goose; King Apple; The Ridgeway; The Prophet; Theodore's Spring Song; Flood Tide.
Personnel: Sam Crockatt: tenor saxophone; Kit Downes: piano; Oli Hayhurst: double-bass; Ben Reynolds: drums.
Record Label: Babel Label