Dark Light

Dark Light

Jonathan Crayford

Best Jazz Album finalist - 2015 NZ Music Awards



Jonathan Crayford (piano)
Ben Street (bass)
Dan Weiss (drums)

An instant classic, this exceptional piano trio recording marks the Rattle debut of Jonathan Crayford. Recorded by Mike Marciano at Systems Two in New York City, the album features Ben Street on bass and Dan Weiss on drums, two of the most remarkable (and highly in-demand) of the new generation of New York jazz musicians.

This brand new album features NZ pianist Jonathan Crayford, and two of New York’s most exciting musicians. It’s a gorgeous album. The title, Dark Light, immediately conjures up a kind of brooding mystique, and it carries on for the entire album. It’s reminiscent of the best of the ECM label – that mixture of a pristine, beautiful sound, and an almost chamber-music type vibe. To me, this is a world class CD.
Nick Tipping, The Critic's Chair (RNZ Concert)
Click here to visit the Jonathan Crayford website
Click here for East West Moon



RAT-J-1020 (April, 2014)

Produced by Jonathan Crayford 
Recorded by Mike Marciano at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, August 2013
Mixed by Steve Garden at the Garden Shed, Auckland, New Zealand, February 2014
Design by UnkleFranc

  Dark Light
  Jonathan Crayford

    Skyscraper Scaffold (4:07)
    Dark Light (9:30)
    Rita Finds the Light (6:53)
    Galois' Candle (5:20)
    Impetus (7:24)
    Bikes in Space (6:26)
    Panties (5:18)

All compositions © Jonathan Crayford, 2014

Thanks to Rory and Nick for the idea
Special thanks to Barney McAll

Click here for East West Moon


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Jonathan Crayford
Teaming up once again with killer New York rhythm section Dan Weiss and Ben Street, Jonathan follows his critically acclaimed DARK LIGHT (2014) with a superb new album. Read more >>


Since Auckland's Rattle label signed a deal with Wellington's Victoria University Press (VUP) it has become alarmingly productive. Albums -- especially those on the Rattle Jazz imprint -- are starting to appear at what seems like one or more a month. But that's not a complaint because the label's standards are impeccably high, and this piano trio album lead by the multi-faceted Jonathan Crayford (who is at home on Latin music as he is on soundtracks), is a quiet gem, easily amongst the finest in the imprint's extensive catalogue.
At times this errs towards the refined elegance of classical piano (the lovely Rita Finds the Light, which is interrupted brilliantly by Dan Weiss' laser sharp drumming), at other times it gets funky (the bright and sprightly opener Skyscraper Scaffold which scuttles around the keyboard and deconstructs various melodies and rolling passages as it goes). These seven pieces -- the longest at nine-something minutes being the poised but dark and spacious title track -- are full of surprises, astute moments of consideration and quiet (Galois' Candle which is masterpiece of blue understatement) and odd corners (Bikes in Space).
And it is a proper "piano trio album" in which pianist Crayford finds empathetic partners in New Yorkers Ben Street (bass) and Weiss. If you thought that idiom had been played out then come back for this one. You will be surprised, engrossed, entertained and perhaps even somewhat in awe at what they manage within the format.
It's early days, but if this isn't New Zealand's jazz album of the year it could only be because the ever-popular Nathan Haines has released another album. Or Rattle Jazz pull another such nugget out of the bag. Your listening really does start here however.

I’ll listen to Jonathan Crayford play anything – any instrument, any line-up, any context – because he’s a seriously good musician. But my favourite way to hear him is at the piano in charge of a trio. I’m not sure if this is because it’s where/how he is best suited or simply because that’s how I first heard him. I’m not trying to take away from Crayford the multi-instrumentalist, band member and sit-in guy, but it’s Crayford the pianist/composer and leader of a trio that I’m most interested in.
So his new album on Rattle, Dark Light is a treat, and not just because it’s all Crayford compositions and a trio format – the rhythm section is Ben Street (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums). I’ve already gushed about Weiss’ most recent album, my pick (already) for 2014’s Album of the Year so this album has arrived right as I’m in the middle of checking out past Weiss solo albums and finding whatever I can that features his insightful, impactful, intuitive playing.
The title track of this album is a very fine example of what Weiss can offer – a stately piano ballad with just enough of a dark undercurrent, those waters stirred by Street’s strong rudder – is kept interesting across its nine-minute duration due to Weiss’ way with time-keeping and accenting. His bass drum riding along seemingly inside the pattern of the upright bass until it’s time to colour – then we hear strikes from the foot that go against the ever-so-slightly agitated ride and cross-stick rhythm. Flams and rimshots never take over from Crayford’s melodic aims, they always accentuate and at just the right moments the drums fall right back for the bass to move the song forward. No one player is the star here, nor across the whole album, it’s team work all the way, but Weiss has a way of rocking back just lightly on a creative jazz-funk seam, similar to the very fine work of Idris Muhammad. Then add in the colour touches that people like Chris “Daddy” Dave and Mark Guiliana have brought to modern jazz.
Rita Finds The Light is a rolling piece of nearly-funk-within-jazz that then falls away to re-start as sensitive ballad with Weiss adding touches of Steve Gadd-like fills as Street sits back on big single notes, then blending chord voicings with Crayford. The songs on this album – the tunes, the pieces – they rise and fall, they twist and turn, they move – always.
Galois’ Candle owes as much to Ludomyr Melnky and James Blackshaw as it does to any of the obvious “jazz” players, Impetus then flips right back into everything you might expect from a piano-led jazz trio, Crayford’s voice out front in that way Oscar Peterson had when leading his trio; the same calm feel to this ballad, the bass almost the lead instrument but for sitting in behind; the drums barely there – but their tracing of a groove, their soft punctuation a crucial element in the end.
Bikes In Spaces stridently pushes the groove, a subversion of the noir-ish shapes found in jazz; a stripped back version of some of the John Zorn ensembles, Bob James-like too. And then the closing track, Panties, reveals a very delicate touch. It’s a hint back to Crayford’s work in film scores, in setting up moods.
Dark Light is to my ears a masterpiece. The best piano-trio album I’ve heard in an age. The finest playing from all three players; it’s all you could hope for – and then some. And then, yes, it’s another very strong release from the always-caring, always lovingly-packaged Rattle imprint. Long may they continue finding and nurturing the best and releasing records of this calibre into a world that – allegedly – doesn’t care for the packaged album as an art form any longer.

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.