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John Crawford – ‘Room for Dancing’

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    Posted: 22 Apr 2024 at 1:37pm
John Crawford – Room for Dancing

(Elsden Music EM06. Album review by Bruce Lindsay)

JOHN CRAWFORD - Room for Dancing cover

Room for Dancing is the somewhat ambiguous title of pianist and composer John Crawford’s latest album. What does it mean? Was it recorded in a room usually reserved for dancing? Does the music leave room for dancing? It’s a puzzle, but a minor one. On this varied and enjoyable recording Crawford – along with vocalist Eleonora Claps, cellist Shirley Smart, guitarist Guillermo Hill, bassist Alec Dankworth, percussionist Andres Ticino and drummer Simon Pearson – provides music for dancing, but also leaves room for music that speaks to romance, music that engenders thoughtfulness and music that lends itself to quiet contemplation.

Crawford composed five of the tracks, which are joined by versions of songs by, among others, Lewis Taylor and Sabina Smyth (“Track”) and Adriana Vasquez (“Blossom,” which highlights Smart’s fluid cello style and Hill’s warm and sensitive electric guitar). “Track” was recorded in July 2017 for an album by vocalist Linley Weir. It didn’t appear on that album, so the recording makes its debut here, with Andy Hamill and Jansen Santana replacing Dankworth and Ticino. The remaining compositions were recorded by Greg Dowling in August 2022. The album opens with “Maite’s Dance,” which shares its 11/8 rhythm with “Polegnala e Todora,” written by Philip Koutev. They’re not the easiest numbers to dance to, but they’re both sprightly, light-hearted, tunes that repay any attempt to throw some shapes.

“Elena’s Dance” appears twice, firstly in its original form, reminiscent of the Penguin Café Orchestra thanks to Crawford’s repetitive 8-note piano phrase, which underpins the entire tune, and Smart’s melodic cello playing, and secondly as an Andrea Tripodi remix, a dreamlike, rich, reinterpretation. “Club del Campesino” features Smart’s cello playing and manages to sound both seductive and humorous at once. Claps joins the band for two songs, “Things” by Louis Cole of Knower, and “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel. The former’s message can be summarised by one line — “Things may not work out how you thought.” Wise, if a tad pessimistic, words, but a combination of Claps’ vocal and Dankworth’s bass solo make it sound like the cheeriest information anyone could ever receive.

Room for Dancing is something of a family enterprise. Crawford and Claps are married: their daughters Maite and Elena lend their names to two tunes – “Maite’s Dance” and “Elena’s Dance” – and also provide the artwork, Maite’s painting adorning the front cover and Elena’s the CD label. Crawford dedicates the album to Simon Pearson, who died in 2023. His sympathetic work across these ten tracks is crucial to their musicality, the result is a fitting tribute to the musician. 

LINKS: Room for Dancing on Bandcamp
John Crawford’s tribute to Simon Pearson for this site

from https://londonjazznews.com

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