Personnel: Sam Crockatt: tenor saxophone; Kit Downes: piano; Oli Hayhurst: bass; Ben Reynolds: drums.
Flood Tide starts out with “Sun & Moon,” an upper mid-tempo tune with a Keith Jarrett-ish, jaunty melody, somewhat like “The Wind-Up” from Jarrett’s Belonging album. Crockatt plays a light-hearted, exploratory solo with just bass and drums for accompaniment, playing with a sound and style combining elements of Joe Lovano and Joe Henderson. Then Downes comes in, also playing in Keith Jarrett style, with spiraling phrases that double-back on each other and impressive technical flourishes.
“Trilogy” is a piece with, not surprisingly, three distinct parts. The first begins as a slow duet between Crockatt and Hayhurst, something like a pretty Scottish folk song, Crockatt’s tone full but gentle; eventually Reynolds plays accompaniment and Downes joins Crockatt on the melody. The second part is a quiet, delicate duet in ¾ time between Crockatt and Downes, though when Reynolds and Hayhurst join in it becomes like a slow, melancholy dance. The second part smoothly flows into the last part, which just ups the intensity briefly before closing out. This is a lovely piece of music, but there is no improvisation involved.
“The Golden Goose” picks up the tempo a bit with a light, intricate theme played by Crockatt and Downes that moves into a melodic, focused bass solo, Downes active in the background but Reynolds just barely touching the drums. Crockett then cobbles together a fine solo, building each phrase from the previous one. The cut ends in a dramatic and pleasing fashion, Crockatt working a series of ascending phrases into a climax.
“King Apple” has a bluesy, Monk-like melody taken at mid-tempo. The piano lays out on this cut and the trio sounds similar to Joe Henderson’s State of the Tenor recording, Crockatt playing a relaxed, patient solo.
“The Ridgeway” is a mid-tempo tune that starts with a repeated bass figure and whose melody is like a prettified, slower “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Eventually, the cut moves into a somewhat funky groove and an ostinato over which Downes plays a solo that brings the word “groovy” to mind. Crockatt then plays a funky but well-controlled solo. The cut fades out on Crockatt’s playing.
“The Prophet” has a quiet, measured, free-form opening, Crockatt playing a slow, snaking line that develops into an appealing melody with a slightly Middle Eastern feel. This cut also dispenses with improvisation (except for Reynolds’s dynamic, meterless accompaniment).
“Theodore’s Spring Song” is a mid-tempo tune with a coy, elusive melody. Crockatt plays a brief, disjointed solo, and Downes picks up this vibe in his solo as well, with minimalist accompaniment from Reynolds. Then Hayhurst has his solo turn, after which sax and piano return for some free-form improvisation and a brief return to the melody to close the cut.
“Flood Tide” is a pretty, lyrical song, taken at a lower mid tempo. The tempo eventually picks up and Downes solos, sounding very Keith Jarrett-ish again, playing all single-note, right-hand lines. Crockett gets in a solid solo, one of his lengthier ones of the recording.
Flood Tide is a collection of appealing music, apparently inspired by Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, but so laid-back and low key that it doesn’t leave a deep impression. The players all seem committed to producing a cohesive whole without anyone grabbing a lot of individual attention. The project has something of a 60’s, Bohemian feel, uncommitted to the theme-solos-theme format but still strongly connected to the jazz tradition. Crockatt plays the tenor sax with a woody, full sound, a bit like Joe Lovano, but with a more deliberate, patient approach to phrasing, concerned with getting every note just right, and with little use of the altissimo range. The group could stand to take more chances, particularly in their soloing, though everyone is very solid in that department. Based on Flood Tide, Crockatt and his quartet deserve to be watched closely for future developments.