The new album by George Crotty and his trio is like a journey. But is it worth taking it? Read to find out.
I have known George Crotty for a few years and followed his progress with his main group, 2Birds Band, so I am immediately intrigued when I hear for another Crotty project. This time it is with a group bearing his name, The George Crotty Trio, and the aptly titled Four Strings Nomad. The group is simple enough: Cello, Double Bass and Drums.
I listened to it.
Then I listened again and I want to tell you about it.
The word I am looking for is: Compelling. It is not an album, which will definitely win you over immediately. You have to give it time. The music tells you “Hey, come and sit next to me. Let me tell you a story and while I am telling you my story, I will take you on a journey and show you that you could travel anywhere in space and time with your mind. You can experience deserts, lush rolling hills, even lands you can’t clearly imagine right now.”
And a journey it is. This is what I experience when I listen to these 7 wonderful pieces:
Synchronicities starts with a pensive and nostalgic solo. The hanging gardens of Babylon are not far away to this listener’s mind. Then the drums come in, and the tune takes us on our first journey. The road comes into focus and the piece becomes a confident opening statement with the lush drumming, the rhythmic dexterity of the cello and the deep pizzicato of the bass all contributing to this feeling a traveler must have when gazing for a first time on a new and fascinating place.
Turn is the name of the second track but at first listen it seems this piece is picking up where the first left off. Nice melody again! The rhythm foundation is different from the beginning and with its 6/8 feel, interspersed with some curious accents and syncopations, it steers the proceedings towards an imaginary Irish place, with a jig feel to it. As the inevitable solo by George on cello comes, we are reminded that this is an artist with rich imagination and great technical and rhythmic versatility.
The next piece, with the intriguing title Poulagower / What’s The Craic? is my favourite. Oh, come on, I am allowed to have favourites, aren’t I? You have to listen for almost two minute in, to hear my favourite part of the whole album but it is worth it, I promise you. As far as I can tell, Poulagower is what they call in Ireland a townland. It is an old way of dividing land and a townland is the smallest unit. What’s The Craic is an expression used for “What’s happened since we last saw each other?”, “How’s it going?”. Curiouser and curiouser. I know! I will make sure I ask George about it on all our behalf when I talk to him in the near future. For now, go buy the album and hear it.
Bond Street. Lovely piece, which starts with a pizzicato section from the strings at the beginning. This introduction of sorts ends with some pizzicato string harmonics and a jazzy rhythm emerges under a singing, rich melody from the cello. The journey continues.
In venerated jazz tradition, there is a lovely double bass solo, while the cello and drums take back seat. All of this is followed by another improvisatory flourish on the cello with a whiff of a certain Mr. Stéphane Grappelli.
Christiania is the name of the next offering. I am curiously reading my notes: “Feisty, angled, jagged, almost sounds as if distorted. Ends abruptly.”
I am checking. It’s still true.
What follows I want to all the musique noir corner of the album. We are in the basement but it is not a seedy basement. Rather, a play on light and shadow through a window on the ground. Fast walking bass, discreet but busy drums and the cello is telling us a story in hush pizzicato. A story about adventures, secret urban parties, walks under neon lights and rainy autumn sadness. Another lovely bass solo, this time more shifty in harmonic sense, drums put a period on the proceedings before returning to the main theme with familiar step. I would love to take a peek into that Junction.
Amrit’s Song is the last fascinating “number” in this journey. It has irregular, jagged rhythm, I would guess 7/8 pr 7/16 for the pedantic rhythm maniacs among the readers. We take a playful walk to the roof of the house where the wind is ruffling our hair and we gaze on the surroundings slowly as far as the eye can see. Amrit’s Song seems to emanate from within, with contagious freedom and abandon. The melody is memorable, the balance is perfect. It is a light at the end of a tunnel. The ending is short and sweet and leaves us wanting more. Just as the doctor prescribed.
Musicians on the Album
George Crotty, cello
John Murchison, bass
Martin Beux, drums
Four Strings Nomad is a wonderful mixture of exotic melodies, jazz sensitivity and rhythmic delights.