A member of Philip Glass' ensemble since 2007, some of Crowell's pieces on Spectrum
have a decidedly minimalist bent. It's a little funny, because the disc opener, "Happy Nightmare," plays with some of the rhythmic offsets and things like that, but still exists as a kind of modern jazz piece, balanced between improv and composition. The leader plays alto over churning bass and drums with Grey McMurray's guitar adding spacy textures around the edges, actually hewing somewhat close to an m-base feel like some of Vijay Iyer's cerebralist concepts. And it's pretty burning, I have to say. Things then take a left turn as "Point Reyes" develops into a pretty straight ahead minimalist workout, followed by "Long Goodbye," a piece given over almost entirely to McMurray's ethereal guitar textures, augmented by some tapping on the drums by Nazary.
It all does make sense, though, because of Crowell's talents as a composer (not unlike fellow New Yorker John Zorn, he's also an active "classical" composer, writing works for things like string quartets and much larger ensembles with strings and winds etc.). For me, the more aggressive tracks stand out, perhaps as a respite to the repetitive motifs of the more classically oriented writing, and also notable is the improvisation as here and there members of the band break out of the stringent compositional constraints and really blow.
This is pretty cool. Crowell is really walking his own path in all the ways that it counts. And when the polyrhythms really kick in ("Nectar of Life Pt 2"!!) it makes one head spin.