The Jazz Mann | Jon Crespo Quartet - Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017. | Review | The Jazz Mann

Accessibility Menu

REVIEW

Jon Crespo Quartet - Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017. Rating: 4 out of 5 These guys have the chops and imagination to take the standards repertoire into another dimension, to turn what could have been a very ordinary set into something special.

Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017.

Trumpeter Jonathan Crespo was born in Chile but the volatile politics of his original homeland resulted in his family moving to Canada when Crespo was still a child.

Crespo’s brother started playing trumpet in high school and Jonathan followed suit, studying classical music but also absorbing the rock of the music of the era including The Who, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd and The Beatles. Crespo has since described himself as a “rocker in a trumpet player’s body”. 

Crespo discovered jazz via Chet Baker and studied the music at Humber College in Toronto, a specialist jazz college. Crespo later became of the Humber College Music Program Advisory Committee, an honour also shared by the late, great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

Crespo’s versatility has led to an interesting and diverse career which has included touring with the Beach Boys, KC and the Sunshine Band and Lenny Kravitz among many others. He has acted as trumpet player and musical director for a number of mainstream entertainers, with this aspect of his work including stints on US cruise ships and residencies in lounges and casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Crespo’s website, http://www.jonathancerspo.com doesn’t specify exactly when he came to Wales but he is now resident in Barry. An acclaimed educator he teaches jazz, classical and commercial trumpet to students in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and is an active presence on the South Wales jazz scene with a weekly Saturday night residency at Café Jazz in Cardiff.

Those Café Jazz sessions see Crespo joined by a trio of musicians who arguably make up South Wales’ leading rhythm section. Pianist Dave Jones is an acclaimed band leader and composer in his own right, Ashley John Long is a virtuoso double bass soloist and drummer Greg Evans is a highly accomplished player and a true stalwart of the local scene.

I’ve seen Jones, Long and Evans performing on many occasions, both individually and collectively and all have been regular visitors to Black Mountain Jazz. As a trio they recently offered inspired support to trombonist and group leader Gareth Roberts at a superb Duke Ellington inspired gig at Brecon Jazz Club, a performance reviewed here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quartet-play-duke-ellington-at-brecon-jazz-club-the-muse-bre/

Tonight represented Crespo’s first visit to BMJ although I had previously seen him perform at the 2016 Brecon Jazz Weekend as part of a band celebrating the music of Brazil fronted by acclaimed vocalist Tina May. It was my first sighting of Crespo and I was very impressed with his contribution to the success of the performance. With this in mind I was very much looking forward to the opportunity of seeing and hearing leading his own group at BMJ.

For this performance Crespo and his colleagues presented a programme of jazz and bebop standards played in the conventional head-solos-head format. “No surprises there” you might think, but it was the quality of the playing from these highly talented musicians that lifted this event beyond the level of “just another standards session”. Those Saturday night sessions at Café Jazz have moulded the quartet into a highly effective unit and, as they proved at Brecon with Roberts, the triumvirate of Jones, Long and Evans is always capable of lifting and galvanising a featured soloist.

The Café on a typical Cardiff Saturday night is not always the quietest or most sympathetic of performing environments with Crespo making reference to “jazz brawls” at one point. Thus the quartet positively relished the opportunity of playing to a supportive, listening audience of around forty in Abergavenny. Promoter Mike Skilton announced himself as being delighted with the turn out considering that the gig had been organised at relatively short notice. The evening also saw a change of routine with the recent ‘double header’ format being abandoned in favour of two sets from the Crespo quartet.

The band were introduced by vocalist and BMJ stalwart Debs Hancock who has sung with Crespo and recommended him to the Club. The change in the listening environment initially seemed to effect the leader who first sounded a little tentative as the band commenced with Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale”. But Crespo soon hit his stride as he shared the solos with the expansive Jones on piano and the astonishingly agile Long at the bass. Crespo and Jones then traded fours with Evans with Jones peppering his phrases with Thelonious Monk quotes. In the centenary of Monk’s birth Jones seemed determined to squeeze a quote from the great man into every tune! One wonders if the other members of the group had placed bets on how many he could fit in!

Next up was an intriguing and exciting arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”, normally a 6/8 waltz but here given an invigorating funk style arrangement. The tune was introduced by Evans at the kit, subtly deploying a mixture of brush, stick and kick drums. Crespo then stated the familiar theme over a subtle funk groove but the first true solo came from Long, a wondrously melodic and dexterous offering underscored by Jones’ sparse piano chording and Evans’ delicately brushed drum grooves. Crespo’s solo saw the leader really taking off with some bravura high register trumpeting and Jones weighed in with a playful solo that featured a beguiling combination of funk ‘n’ Monk. 

Crespo promised that the quartet would “slow things down a little” with their version of “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me”. However this proved to be something of a misnomer as Crespo, who played off mic all evening, soloed with a remarkable power and eloquence on a marathon excursion that incorporated some blues drenched vocalisations. It was left to Long and Jones to provide something of the promised decorum, but again the pianist couldn’t resist the temptation to squeeze in some Monk quotes. Crespo rounded things off with a final trumpet cadenza underscored by Long with the bow.

“Four”, a tune most closely associated with Miles Davis, saw the quartet diving head first into the world of bebop and negotiating the frenetic twists and turns of the piece with aplomb. Crespo stated the theme on trumpet before launching into a dazzling solo, followed in turn by Jones on piano and Long at the bass. I’ve written many times about Long’s brilliance as a soloist and he was at his best   here with some stunningly nimble finger work around the bridge of the instrument, his jaw dropping virtuosity well supported by Jones’ keyboard fills and the chatter of Evans’ rapidly brushed drums. Jones and Crespo then traded fours with Evans, the trumpeter quoting the “Woody Woodpecker Song” - it was that sort of fun gig. As the trio played out the first set Crespo announced his colleagues, likening Evans to the Winston Wolfe character played by Harvey Keitel in the Pulp Fiction films and the Direct Line ads. I hadn’t thought of the resemblance before but it kind of fitted. Oh dear Greg, you might find yourself saddled with this one for a long time!

It’s an established custom at BMJ that audiences are entertained by a pianist in the bar as they recharge their glasses during the interval. The role is normally filled by Martha Skilton, who is also an increasingly in demand saxophonist. With Martha gigging elsewhere on sax the piano was played tonight by Nichola McCloy, a classically trained pianist and educator and the proprietor of the Music Box School of Piano in nearby Gilwern. Although (by her own admission) not a jazz player McCloy’s classically honed touch served her well as she performed a selection of Great American Songbook classics. To be honest the interval music is usually treated as ‘background listening’ as glasses are refilled and conversations exchanged but I did try to keep an ear open and particularly enjoyed McCloy’s lovely rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind”. 
Hopefully we will see her back at BMJ at some point in the future.

Back in the theatre the trio of Jones, Long and Evans kicked off the standard “I Will Never Find Another You” with Crespo subsequently coming to the front of the stage to deliver the first solo. Jones followed on piano and Long once again swarmed all over his bass. Evans enjoyed a series of crisply brushed drum breaks as he exchanged choruses with Crespo and Jones.

Crespo revealed that he once studied briefly with the late, great Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet teacher. Hubbard’s classic “Red Clay” followed as the quartet made a diversion into fusion-esque territory with Jones adopting a “Rhodes” piano sound on his keyboard. The piece was introduced by Long at the bass with Crespo stating the theme and Evans moving from brushes to sticks as the music demanded. Jones took the first solo, proving to be as inventive when utilising the electric piano sound as he had been with the ‘acoustic’. Crespo’s own solo saw him channelling the spirit of Freddie while Long’s bass solo combined his playing of the melody with some dramatic flamenco style strumming as Crespo added to the Latin flavourings by wielding a pair of shakers. Great stuff.

An energetic arrangement of Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird” found the quartet back in high and fast flying bebop territory with the brashness of Crespo’s lithe solo now reminding me of another long departed American trumpet hero, the great Lee Morgan. Jones soloed feverishly and imaginatively on piano, urged on by Long’s rapid bass walk and Evans’ urgent, swinging prompting. Long was then featured on bass prior to Crespo’s closing theme statement.

Crespo has two more Saturday nights at Café Jazz before jetting out to California for three months to engage in cruise ship and studio session work. However his excitement will be curbed by the prospect of having to leave his young family in Wales for the duration. Such are the ups and downs of the musician’s life. Before announcing the final tune Crespo thanked his colleagues for their work this evening and throughout the Café Jazz residency. One sensed that they had developed a real musical and personal empathy.  The trumpeter also thanked the BMJ audience for their attention and appreciation.

That final number proved to be “Tenor Madness”, a tune most associated with saxophonist Sonny Rollins but one which sounded great on trumpet too. All of the quartet members were featured with Jones taking the first solo with Long following on the bass and introducing his own Thelonious Monk quote. Crespo and Evans played a fiery duo passage (as pictured) before the trumpeter soloed in full quartet mode, sometimes cupping his hand over the bell of his horn to produce the kind of vocalised effect commonly generated by use of a plunger mute.

This was a high energy conclusion to an excellent performance that earned the band a terrific response from the Abergavenny audience. The deserved encore was a version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” that calmed things down a little, but not too much. Crespo stated the theme underscored by Long’s languorous bass groove and Evans’ gentle swing but introduced an element of humour into his solo. Jones feature contained a final Monk allusion while Long explored a series of variations on the familiar “Blackbird” melody.

The skill and energy of the quartet’s playing ensured that they enjoyed one of the most enthusiastic audience receptions that I’ve seen at BMJ – and rightly so. These guys have the chops and imagination to take the standards repertoire into another dimension, to turn what, in other hands, could have been a very ordinary set into something special. 

Interestingly Crespo told me that he’d left his flugel at home deliberately, he tends to use it more for ‘supper club’ engagements and felt that the BMJ crowd would appreciate something more hard hitting and more obviously and unashamedly jazz. The reaction of the crowd suggested that his judgement was spot-on.

It was good to hear Crespo leading his band and good to meet up with him at last after making email contact last year in the wake of his Brecon Jazz Weekend performance with Tina May.

I’m sure that everybody who enjoyed his quartet’s performance at BMJ tonight will wish him well on his American adventures and look forward to a return visit at some future juncture.


COMMENTS;

From David Renn via Facebook;

What a lovely write-up.

From Jonathan Crespo via Facebook;
 
To be reviewed by this man once is incredible, to have now been reviewed twice..absolutely honoured.

From Vince Roles via Facebook;

Great review . . . well done! Hiya Greg!

Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017.

Jon Crespo Quartet

Monday, July 31, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017.
Photography: Image of the Jon Crespo Quartet courtesy of Mike Skilton of Black Mountain Jazz.

These guys have the chops and imagination to take the standards repertoire into another dimension, to turn what could have been a very ordinary set into something special.

Jon Crespo Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/07/2017.

Trumpeter Jonathan Crespo was born in Chile but the volatile politics of his original homeland resulted in his family moving to Canada when Crespo was still a child.

Crespo’s brother started playing trumpet in high school and Jonathan followed suit, studying classical music but also absorbing the rock of the music of the era including The Who, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd and The Beatles. Crespo has since described himself as a “rocker in a trumpet player’s body”. 

Crespo discovered jazz via Chet Baker and studied the music at Humber College in Toronto, a specialist jazz college. Crespo later became of the Humber College Music Program Advisory Committee, an honour also shared by the late, great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

Crespo’s versatility has led to an interesting and diverse career which has included touring with the Beach Boys, KC and the Sunshine Band and Lenny Kravitz among many others. He has acted as trumpet player and musical director for a number of mainstream entertainers, with this aspect of his work including stints on US cruise ships and residencies in lounges and casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Crespo’s website, http://www.jonathancerspo.com doesn’t specify exactly when he came to Wales but he is now resident in Barry. An acclaimed educator he teaches jazz, classical and commercial trumpet to students in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and is an active presence on the South Wales jazz scene with a weekly Saturday night residency at Café Jazz in Cardiff.

Those Café Jazz sessions see Crespo joined by a trio of musicians who arguably make up South Wales’ leading rhythm section. Pianist Dave Jones is an acclaimed band leader and composer in his own right, Ashley John Long is a virtuoso double bass soloist and drummer Greg Evans is a highly accomplished player and a true stalwart of the local scene.

I’ve seen Jones, Long and Evans performing on many occasions, both individually and collectively and all have been regular visitors to Black Mountain Jazz. As a trio they recently offered inspired support to trombonist and group leader Gareth Roberts at a superb Duke Ellington inspired gig at Brecon Jazz Club, a performance reviewed here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quartet-play-duke-ellington-at-brecon-jazz-club-the-muse-bre/

Tonight represented Crespo’s first visit to BMJ although I had previously seen him perform at the 2016 Brecon Jazz Weekend as part of a band celebrating the music of Brazil fronted by acclaimed vocalist Tina May. It was my first sighting of Crespo and I was very impressed with his contribution to the success of the performance. With this in mind I was very much looking forward to the opportunity of seeing and hearing leading his own group at BMJ.

For this performance Crespo and his colleagues presented a programme of jazz and bebop standards played in the conventional head-solos-head format. “No surprises there” you might think, but it was the quality of the playing from these highly talented musicians that lifted this event beyond the level of “just another standards session”. Those Saturday night sessions at Café Jazz have moulded the quartet into a highly effective unit and, as they proved at Brecon with Roberts, the triumvirate of Jones, Long and Evans is always capable of lifting and galvanising a featured soloist.

The Café on a typical Cardiff Saturday night is not always the quietest or most sympathetic of performing environments with Crespo making reference to “jazz brawls” at one point. Thus the quartet positively relished the opportunity of playing to a supportive, listening audience of around forty in Abergavenny. Promoter Mike Skilton announced himself as being delighted with the turn out considering that the gig had been organised at relatively short notice. The evening also saw a change of routine with the recent ‘double header’ format being abandoned in favour of two sets from the Crespo quartet.

The band were introduced by vocalist and BMJ stalwart Debs Hancock who has sung with Crespo and recommended him to the Club. The change in the listening environment initially seemed to effect the leader who first sounded a little tentative as the band commenced with Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale”. But Crespo soon hit his stride as he shared the solos with the expansive Jones on piano and the astonishingly agile Long at the bass. Crespo and Jones then traded fours with Evans with Jones peppering his phrases with Thelonious Monk quotes. In the centenary of Monk’s birth Jones seemed determined to squeeze a quote from the great man into every tune! One wonders if the other members of the group had placed bets on how many he could fit in!

Next up was an intriguing and exciting arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”, normally a 6/8 waltz but here given an invigorating funk style arrangement. The tune was introduced by Evans at the kit, subtly deploying a mixture of brush, stick and kick drums. Crespo then stated the familiar theme over a subtle funk groove but the first true solo came from Long, a wondrously melodic and dexterous offering underscored by Jones’ sparse piano chording and Evans’ delicately brushed drum grooves. Crespo’s solo saw the leader really taking off with some bravura high register trumpeting and Jones weighed in with a playful solo that featured a beguiling combination of funk ‘n’ Monk. 

Crespo promised that the quartet would “slow things down a little” with their version of “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me”. However this proved to be something of a misnomer as Crespo, who played off mic all evening, soloed with a remarkable power and eloquence on a marathon excursion that incorporated some blues drenched vocalisations. It was left to Long and Jones to provide something of the promised decorum, but again the pianist couldn’t resist the temptation to squeeze in some Monk quotes. Crespo rounded things off with a final trumpet cadenza underscored by Long with the bow.

“Four”, a tune most closely associated with Miles Davis, saw the quartet diving head first into the world of bebop and negotiating the frenetic twists and turns of the piece with aplomb. Crespo stated the theme on trumpet before launching into a dazzling solo, followed in turn by Jones on piano and Long at the bass. I’ve written many times about Long’s brilliance as a soloist and he was at his best   here with some stunningly nimble finger work around the bridge of the instrument, his jaw dropping virtuosity well supported by Jones’ keyboard fills and the chatter of Evans’ rapidly brushed drums. Jones and Crespo then traded fours with Evans, the trumpeter quoting the “Woody Woodpecker Song” - it was that sort of fun gig. As the trio played out the first set Crespo announced his colleagues, likening Evans to the Winston Wolfe character played by Harvey Keitel in the Pulp Fiction films and the Direct Line ads. I hadn’t thought of the resemblance before but it kind of fitted. Oh dear Greg, you might find yourself saddled with this one for a long time!

It’s an established custom at BMJ that audiences are entertained by a pianist in the bar as they recharge their glasses during the interval. The role is normally filled by Martha Skilton, who is also an increasingly in demand saxophonist. With Martha gigging elsewhere on sax the piano was played tonight by Nichola McCloy, a classically trained pianist and educator and the proprietor of the Music Box School of Piano in nearby Gilwern. Although (by her own admission) not a jazz player McCloy’s classically honed touch served her well as she performed a selection of Great American Songbook classics. To be honest the interval music is usually treated as ‘background listening’ as glasses are refilled and conversations exchanged but I did try to keep an ear open and particularly enjoyed McCloy’s lovely rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind”. 
Hopefully we will see her back at BMJ at some point in the future.

Back in the theatre the trio of Jones, Long and Evans kicked off the standard “I Will Never Find Another You” with Crespo subsequently coming to the front of the stage to deliver the first solo. Jones followed on piano and Long once again swarmed all over his bass. Evans enjoyed a series of crisply brushed drum breaks as he exchanged choruses with Crespo and Jones.

Crespo revealed that he once studied briefly with the late, great Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet teacher. Hubbard’s classic “Red Clay” followed as the quartet made a diversion into fusion-esque territory with Jones adopting a “Rhodes” piano sound on his keyboard. The piece was introduced by Long at the bass with Crespo stating the theme and Evans moving from brushes to sticks as the music demanded. Jones took the first solo, proving to be as inventive when utilising the electric piano sound as he had been with the ‘acoustic’. Crespo’s own solo saw him channelling the spirit of Freddie while Long’s bass solo combined his playing of the melody with some dramatic flamenco style strumming as Crespo added to the Latin flavourings by wielding a pair of shakers. Great stuff.

An energetic arrangement of Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird” found the quartet back in high and fast flying bebop territory with the brashness of Crespo’s lithe solo now reminding me of another long departed American trumpet hero, the great Lee Morgan. Jones soloed feverishly and imaginatively on piano, urged on by Long’s rapid bass walk and Evans’ urgent, swinging prompting. Long was then featured on bass prior to Crespo’s closing theme statement.

Crespo has two more Saturday nights at Café Jazz before jetting out to California for three months to engage in cruise ship and studio session work. However his excitement will be curbed by the prospect of having to leave his young family in Wales for the duration. Such are the ups and downs of the musician’s life. Before announcing the final tune Crespo thanked his colleagues for their work this evening and throughout the Café Jazz residency. One sensed that they had developed a real musical and personal empathy.  The trumpeter also thanked the BMJ audience for their attention and appreciation.

That final number proved to be “Tenor Madness”, a tune most associated with saxophonist Sonny Rollins but one which sounded great on trumpet too. All of the quartet members were featured with Jones taking the first solo with Long following on the bass and introducing his own Thelonious Monk quote. Crespo and Evans played a fiery duo passage (as pictured) before the trumpeter soloed in full quartet mode, sometimes cupping his hand over the bell of his horn to produce the kind of vocalised effect commonly generated by use of a plunger mute.

This was a high energy conclusion to an excellent performance that earned the band a terrific response from the Abergavenny audience. The deserved encore was a version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” that calmed things down a little, but not too much. Crespo stated the theme underscored by Long’s languorous bass groove and Evans’ gentle swing but introduced an element of humour into his solo. Jones feature contained a final Monk allusion while Long explored a series of variations on the familiar “Blackbird” melody.

The skill and energy of the quartet’s playing ensured that they enjoyed one of the most enthusiastic audience receptions that I’ve seen at BMJ – and rightly so. These guys have the chops and imagination to take the standards repertoire into another dimension, to turn what, in other hands, could have been a very ordinary set into something special. 

Interestingly Crespo told me that he’d left his flugel at home deliberately, he tends to use it more for ‘supper club’ engagements and felt that the BMJ crowd would appreciate something more hard hitting and more obviously and unashamedly jazz. The reaction of the crowd suggested that his judgement was spot-on.

It was good to hear Crespo leading his band and good to meet up with him at last after making email contact last year in the wake of his Brecon Jazz Weekend performance with Tina May.

I’m sure that everybody who enjoyed his quartet’s performance at BMJ tonight will wish him well on his American adventures and look forward to a return visit at some future juncture.


COMMENTS;

From David Renn via Facebook;

What a lovely write-up.

From Jonathan Crespo via Facebook;
 
To be reviewed by this man once is incredible, to have now been reviewed twice..absolutely honoured.

From Vince Roles via Facebook;

Great review . . . well done! Hiya Greg!


blog comments powered by Disqus

JAZZ MANN FEATURES

EFG London Jazz Festival, Sunday November 19th 2017.

EFG London Jazz Festival, Sunday November 19th 2017.

Ian Mann witnesses the future of British jazz at the NYJO Jazz Jam and the JazzNewBlood showcase and loses himself in a spectacular Norwegian double bill featuring Sinikka Langeland and Jaga Jazzist.


EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday November 18th 2017.

EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday November 18th 2017.

Eclectic, Iklectik, Elektrik - Ian Mann on the penultimate day of the EFG London Jazz Festival.


JAZZ MANN RECOMMENDS