John Crawford .jpg

John Crawford Latin Quintet

Friday 05 May 2023

John Crawford – piano, Guillermo Hill – guitar, Alec Dankworth – bass, Andres Ticino – percussion, Simon Pearson – drums.

Let the Latin! What an exciting evening this quintet gave us. It’s all of seven years since the Club last featured a Latin ensemble and it was John’s group that played then, too.

There was nothing conventional or soporific and little that was gentle about this Quintet’s performance. John leads them with strength and huge enthusiasm which he communicates to the audience not only through their music but also with informative and explanatory introductions, often including personal anecdotes.

Mostly, they played compositions by John, both previously recorded and from his imminent release called “Room for Dancing” (which, I imagine, most of the audience will buy!). Tributes to some of John’s heroes completed the set list.

Frequent changes of tempo, rhythm, sound levels and group participants demanded high levels of musicianship and familiarity with often complex and dynamic numbers. Every member of the group met these demands brilliantly and the enthusiastic applause from the audience was a recognition of this as well as of their enjoyment of the music itself.

So, what did they play? Blurred had a brief but delicate intro. followed by a thoughtful solo from John before, as with many of their numbers, bursting into dramatic life. Anima is John’s tribute to Milton Nascimento and featured very varied and effective interplay, which is one of the delights of this groups’ style. After a solemn intro. Flower of Levant had an excellent guitar solo from Guillermo and, when the pace picked up, a virtuoso exposition of Ticino’s skills as a percussionist on an amazing array of equipment.

The next two pieces were written for John’s young daughters and were called Maite’s Dance and Elena’s Dance (this was the latter’s premiere).  Both pieces were suitably gentler, pretty and fun, and both of them will be included in their new album.

Gabriel’s Message demonstrated this Group’s ability to bring originality and intense rhythmic excitement to their playing.  James was a flamenco arrangement and the first half ended with Solea For Brixton, in 6/8 time, in a tribute to Paco de Lucia.

Club del Campesino, a composition resulting from some work John did with Nikki Iles, was played by the trio of John, Alec and Ticino in the Cuban “danzon” rhythm – a lovely composition which will also be on the new album. Bow and Codeine was written for the cellist Shirley Smart and after a brilliant solo by John we were privileged to hear Alec’s first solo of the night - equally brilliant and very well received. That rather put Blossom in the shade before the sun came out again with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Samba do Aviao, a comparatively gentle number but almost inevitably enlivened by a typically energetic solo from John. Polegnole had a rather trance-like rhythm which allowed the duo of Guillermo and Alec to play beautifully together before Simon’s skilled solo ended the number.

Endgame (it wasn’t – there was a fifteenth(!) number to come) was a rumba with a stately opening, then relaxing into a rhythmically engaging and pretty tune with Ticino contributing superbly throughout. Rio Ancho featured Alec, hand-clapping and another virtuoso solo from John which was so rousingly accompanied by the rest of the group that I did briefly wonder whether it wasn’t the band driving him rather than the other way round.

And then it was over! And I had to answer the question from members of the delighted audience “Why haven’t you invited them before and when are you bringing them back?”

Photos from the event

Click on a photo to enlarge it