After a hundred and seven days in isolation, five days of equivocation and an anxious twenty minutes hunting for a parking space, there I was in the front row of the CJC Jazz Club; poised expectantly as the pianist’s fingers were about to descend. It was not as if I had been deprived of music during lockdown because my ears had been exploring a mélange of sounds. In fact, my noise-cancelling headphones had become such a fixture that I felt awkward without them. So what had I missed? I had missed sitting with friends, the hushed buzz of conversation before a first set and that feeling of joy as the lights lower. Live Jazz in an intimate setting is a unique experience, and for me, an addictive one. As Nietzsche said, a life lived without music would be a mistake.
I approach Jonathan Crayford gigs with high expectations and I am never disappointed. Even the occasional gigs in crowded streetside bars yield gold; but in a listening venue with a nice piano, you get the best of him. All good musicians feed on an enthusiastic audience, but with Crayford, there is a discernable x-factor, something quite beyond the ordinary. It is difficult to put into words, and I have approached this on previous occasions. You can see it in his gaze as he leans toward a piano, but it is also in his verbal engagements with an audience. When he talks and plays he is reaching beyond. Beyond a room, a city, a country. Gazing into the cosmos for inspiration.
His talk is peppered with a sense of place, or with improbable events and observations as he weaves them into intimate and odd narratives. A park bench in Central Park, a book read in Paris, a philosophical discussion with a homeless person. Pavement tee-shirt manufacturing — bikes in space! He talks as if new worlds and indeed the cosmos falls easily under his gaze and that is reflected in his music. To make extraordinary music requires seeing beyond the mundane. The interesting thing, however unexpected, is that for a moment, we hear through brand new ears. That is his gift.
The gig featured a selection of Crayford’s compositions and all were extracted from his acclaimed New York Trio albums on Rattle. Anything from East-West Moon or Dark Light will please and fresh interpretations with a newly configured trio are always welcome. All three musicians were obviously pleased to be gigging again and I know that drummer Ron Samsom and bass player Cameron McArthur relished the opportunity to tackle these works. All three dug in and delivered as I knew they would.
If by some unfortunate oversight you have not heard East-West Moon or the earlier album, Dark Light, you need to remedy that over the Christmas break. I would urge you to bypass the streamers and purchase the album, or at least download it in WAV from www.rattle-records.bandcamp Support Kiwi music.
The CJC live trio: Jonathan Crayford (piano), Cameron McArthur (bass), Ron Samsom (drums)
The NY album trio: Jonathan Crayford (piano), Ben Street (bass), Dan Weiss (drums) – Rattle Records (Rattle Jazz)
JazzLocal32.com is rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, poet & writer.Some of these posts appear on related sites.