Kevin Crabb – Waltz for Dylan – Crabbclaw

by | Oct 27, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews

Kevin Crabb – Waltz for Dylan – Crabbclaw, 55:19 ****:
(Kevin Crabb – drums, producer; Don Thompson – bass; John Beasley – piano; Kelly Jefferson – tenor saxophone)
Drummer Kevin Crabb has had a full, busy life which has ranged from child actor to accomplished singer, from freelance musician to drum teacher. Recently Crabb formed his own group, Kevin Crabb and Friends, and self-released his solo debut, Waltz for Dylan, a showcase for Crabb’s compositional talents (he wrote the nine tracks) and his unified approach to music.
Hearing this nearly hour-long outing it is clear Waltz for Dylan is not focused exclusively on drumming and percussion. Crabb has put together a swinging jazz quartet which emphasizes everyone’s contributions, including pianist John Beasley, a versatile keyboardist with several solo projects and who has worked with everyone from Michael Franks to Miles Davis; Canadian tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, who fronts her own quartet; and fellow Canadian/bassist Don Thompson, a multi-instrumentalist (bass, piano and vibes) whose credits include the John Handy Quintet, the Jim Hall Trio and George Shearing’s group.
The nine tunes share one common thread: tightly-executed ensemble efforts. The program does not center on one specific jazz style but a resilient group identity fuses the album into a demonstrative, upbeat whole. For example, the quickly-paced, post-bop cut “It Could Happen” highlights the interaction between Jefferson and Beasley, who bring a bouncy pulse to the propulsive piece, which seems to end far too soon. There’s a similar spirit on the assured, Latin-tinged “Nightscape,” where Beasley again presents his keyboard chops and Jefferson displays her sax skills. This is the only other performance which also feels too brief, where listeners may desire a few more choruses before the rousing finish.
There are several reasons to pay close attention to Crabb. For one, he is a hallmark of unobtrusive taste.  His snare drum technique, for instance, is superlative and should not be taken for granted. This is apparent on the title track, an effusive ballad which honors Crabb’s son, who Crabb says in his liner notes, “inspires everyone’s best tune.” While Crabb provides the rhythmic foundation which binds the composition together, Beasley and Jefferson play off each other as if they have performed in the same band for years: Jefferson is encouraged and invigorated by Beasley’s comping, and Beasley shifts into several intriguing solo changes which are stimulated by Thompson and Crabb’s rhythmic patterns. Crabb’s subtle brushwork is accented on the lengthy, atmospheric “Flight,” which also is a superb setting for Jefferson’s tender tenor. The brisk, tempo-changeup “Spirit Dance” keeps Beasley and Crabb busy as they move swiftly from a samba march to a brash montuno (Cuban) time signature, each goading the other one in a demanding but fun excursion which is an album high point. Craftsmanship and convincing composition are what helps make Waltz for Dylan a strong session of modern jazz: the mixture of complete musicianship and great music results in a record which can be easily recommended to any jazz fan.
Ecology; Unbelievable But True; It Could Happen; Flight; Spirit Dance; Snow; River Sticks; Nightscape; Waltz for Dylan
–Doug Simpson

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