DON’T YOU JUST love it when an album comes along to put your faith back in jazz? Dark Light is like that, but don’t think for a moment that it’s a radical reinvention of jazz, or a difficult, experimental work, because it works within pre-existent boundaries; just sublimely so.
While too many jazz artists are happy to endlessly eulogise Miles or Coltrane, Crayford clearly has a sense of self that allows him carte blanche to nudge away at jazz tradition, imposing his musical strategy on the way. He’s got the gall to do it his way, but the sheer talent, too, and the buddies to see his vision through.
I’m going to try and keep this short, so here’s the thing: Dark Light is not only one of the few jazz albums you probably need to hear in 2014, it’s one of the very few jazz trio albums you’ll need to hear. The jazz trio is so often such a very played out institution that it’s shocking how great the format can be when it’s done right. Bassist Ben Street and drummer Dan Weiss are experienced American players with a genuine empathy for Crayford’s often delicate, sometimes stately, always architecturally magnificent compositions, and this recording – captured in New York – gets it just right. Street and Wise are much more than just sympathetic cohorts, their super-intuitive interplay finds its way right inside the songs.
And then there’s Crayford’s pianistics, which are just too good. Take the opening track, ‘Skyscraper Gold’, where he sets up a fast, insistent, repetitive figure, to which he adds the occasional flurry, or ‘Rita Finds The Light’, which is so imagistic as to defy the jazz label. The piano work is often classically imbued, but not in a Brubeck fashion. A good example is ‘Galois’ Candle’, with its Euro motion picture vibe: poignant and sad and a bit mysterious, too. The last track, titled ‘Panties’ (ahem!) is in the same ballpark, but this great piece (all in a mere 5:18) twists and turns like nobody’s business.
Dark Light is a wonderful example of modern jazz, with a lemon twist. And Witchdoctor readers will enjoy its audiophile flavour, too. There’s that sense of wide dynamic range you sometimes get when three acoustic instruments are recorded by someone who really knows what he’s doing. And everything, from the big old bottom end to the wonderfully transparent top end just works a treat. GARY STEEL
Sound = 4.5
Music = 4.5
Note: The rhythm section is different on this track, which does feature on the album.