EAST WEST MOON
This is the second time that New Zealand pianist Jonathan Crayford has teamed up with the stellar New York rhythm section of bassist Ben Street and drummer Dan Weiss. But Crayford is well clear of the mentality of using Big Apple musicians as a proving ground for one’s own musicianship. The playing here is often about restraint rather than rampant virtuosity, and the real stars are the compositions.
Crayford composes with all the care of a sculptor delicately chiselling at a slap of marble, so the pieces become fields for very specific forms of improvising: improvising that elaborates upon the story inherent in each work. Often these are stories in which some level of disquiet is the dominant mood. The opening Subito, for instance, has a glow of autumnal lyricism about it against which Weiss lays a vague undercurrent of agitation. Yves Noir with the Long Hair Wig (Noir being the brilliant French photographer) brings the disquiet to the surface, enunciated as much by the rests as any notes. Yet what emerges is an enigmatic beauty that echoes Noir’s own work. Kurt in Berlin is more overtly a ballad, but even here the harmonies carry a hint of foreboding, around which Weiss deepens the shadows. Disturbance is plain disturbing, the sense of foreboding now tipping over into something more overtly threatening even as the dynamics continue to be held on a tight leash.
For the title track Weiss swaps to tabla, while Crayford plays lines of such simple, ravishing beauty as to be worthy of Satie. Moon another ballad, is probably the most conventional piece on the album, and yet even it carries something of the eerie luminosity of its namesake. The closing Light of the Earth functions as a coda to the album as a whole, and gives us just the slightest trace of that mood of muted disquiet that reminds me so much of the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico.