Curlew: "Meet The Curlews!" (2002)
As ever with Curlew, the music defies categorisation, being derived as much from the language of rock as from jazz (but certainly never being jazz-rock). Central to the music are original compositions (all five members contribute, Cartwright predominating) with memorable melodies and compelling rhythms. The playing is nearly always subservient to the overall success of a composition, without many solos, but with subtle and sustained ensemble work and interaction. The only real exceptions close out the album; "Late December (reprise)" is a slow-paced solo piano improvisation, and "Middle and Fall" is a welcome showcase for Williams' guitar and then Cartwright's sax. Those two tracks are the nearest thing here to straight-ahead jazz. Other tracks relate more tangentially to jazz, some verging on pastiche in a way reminiscent of Frank Zappa. For instance, on Cartwright's "Barn Door" the playing is mannered, even laboured, in a way that knowingly debunks the opening theme. None of this is overdone; subtlety is the key. The end result is an intriguing and pleasurable album.
Track Listing: Space Flight Cat; Late December; Meet The Curlews; Cold Ride; ARM; Hated; Sensible Shoes / Proper Fit; Barn Door; Lemon Bitter; Late December (Reprise); Middle and Fall.
Personnel: George Cartwright, alto, tenor & soprano saxophones; Davey Williams, 6 and 12 string guitars; Bruce Golden, drums and such; Fred Chalenor, bass; Chris Parker, piani, Wurlitzer electric piano.
Record Label: Cuneiform Records