Tag Archives: John Law

Album review: John Law: These Skies In Which We Rust (released Dec 2014)

JohnLawJohn Law’s latest New Congregation double CD release These Skies In Which We Rust certainly fulfills the promise heard earlier this year at The Forge and in John’s electronic project Boink!   The New Congregation members may have changed, Laurie Lowe takes Asaf Sirkis’ place, Josh Arcoleo joins on sax but thankfully Yuri Goloubev remains. In short, dizzyingly beautiful tunes, magical effects and perfect playing make this my runner-up for Album of 2014.   

Ambitious in scope – 11 own compositions with inspiration from his daughter’s poetry, elements of Brahms’ Requiem, tricky time signatures and electromagnetic pulses from outer space – individually the pieces can make your blood run cold (just let your mind go back to how you felt on 9/11 when you listen to Incarnadine Day inspired by the poem of that name by John’s daughter Holly) or transport you to a magical place with just one note of the glockenspiel.  As always with John Law, there is breathtaking piano, he’s our 21st century Bach, cinematic tunes that grab you instantly, lyricism propelled by the lightning fast fingering and sublime sense of romance of Goloubev, the controlled seething, fizzing drums of Lowe.  A fresh sound in the New Congregation is Josh Arcoleo whose sax adds coolness and irony in Music of the Night.  The final track I Hold My Soul To The Wind features lovely wordless vocals from Holly Law (whose poem may have the voice of a teenager but has universal poignancy) and heartbreaking bass. The sound and mixing from Curtis Schwartz at Berry House Studios, Ardingly is perfect.

Album available from John

★★★★★

Mary James   28 December 2014

Concert review: John Law’s New Congregation, The Forge, 15 June 2014

An afternoon of gothic horror and glockenspiels at The Forge Camden from a powerhouse trio embellished with a caramel-toned saxophonist.   That would be my Twitter review.

If John Law’s recent Boink! project felt like a work in progress, this New Congregation is fully formed and the new album These Skies In Which We Rust eagerly awaited.   For those of us who struggle with change in favourite bands, the loss of the mercurial Asaf Sirkis is more than compensated by the quietly brooding figure of Laurie Lowe on percussion.  And as always, there is the poised, focussed bass of Yuri Goloubev whose arco playing stops your heart.

We heard the trio in the first set with the bonus of Josh Arcoleo in the second (who made light work of a tricky time signature in Lucky 13), and together they introduced us to eleven compositions, many of whom will become old favourites for their catchiness (Set Theory, 789 )  or because they haul you up short – the jagged, stabbing, tumbling horror of Incarnadine Day,  the wry humour of To do Today: to Die.

In lesser hands, the electromagnetic pulses from outer space, the battery of keyboards, the fiddling with iPad, an Ibo drum,  the snatches of vocals, the bits of Brahms, the changes in mood and emotion through the concert would feel unsettling or gimmicky.  But not here, they are satisfying, fluent, glimpses of what promises to be a very good album indeed.  An extremely enjoyable afternoon.

If you would like to support this project, John Law’s New Congregation These Skies in Which We Rust, (and I recommend that you do) you can do so here.

Mary James 16 June 2014

Gig review: John Law’s Boink! Stratford Jazz, 12 March 2014

BoinkThis was a gig I savour more in my mind 24 hours after the event than when I was actually there.    I have had this feeling before:   the first time I saw Brad Mehldau’s Mehliana at The Village Underground.  I just didn’t get it. It was too loud,  I couldn’t see.  Then I saw him again at the London Jazz Festival and it clicked.  This new project of John Law has the same effect.    Boink! is the electronic brainchild of guitarist Rob Palmer and John Law.   The press release says  the idea is to explore “electronic sounds and effects over drum grooves. Spontaneous group interaction between keyboards, soprano/bass clarinet and guitar, coming out of pre-composed electronic music scores. Underpinned by propulsive drum grooves. Jazz, rock, ambient, electronic…”    So we knew what we were in for.  Or did we?

But seeing the project live, with a screen showing videos by  Patrick Dunn which became increasingly interesting, absorbing and distracting as the evening wore on, I felt I was being overloaded with sensory experiences – I just couldn’t absorb them fast enough.   Now as I unpick the experience I can see that the concept is extremely good, it just needs a bit more time to bed in as a live venture.   There were so many experiences crammed in – an obscure  piece of Samuel Beckett, our responses to 9/11,  the challenge of being a jazz musician performing to an indifferent chattering sophisticated audience, what it’s like to be a tortoise ( yes!).    I wondered what it was like on the stage – the musicians couldn’t see the visuals behind them or our expressions as we listened.   Maybe in future the setup could allow visuaIs to be seen by everyone so there was true interactivity? I missed the cool clarity of Jon Lloyd’s sax (he is on the album and Laurie Lowe is on drums).   But I admired the  delicate poise of Lloyd Haines on drums, the quick thinking of Rob Palmer  who could change mood swiftly (this was 90% improvisation after all) and as always the  mesmeric skills of John Law on keyboards.

I hear that John’s next project is an animated version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.   Please slow down John and let us grow into Boink!  The album really does grow on me, I just need to catch up.

John Law, keyboards, iPod
Rob Palmer, guitar
Lloyd Haines, drums
Patrick Dunn, visuals

Album and gig review: Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points (released Sept 2013)

JonLloydGroupThis is an extremely elegant album.  I don’t know why I am surprised at saying this. I suppose I thought that saxophonist Jon Lloyd, a musician who has spent his life exploring the boundaries of structure and freedom, would be challenging, in a negative sense. I was wrong.  At Sherborne Jazz Club on 7 December, tempted out by the name  ‘John Law’ I once more saw piano and fender rhodes in mutual support (the earlier occasion was Brad Mehldau at the Barbican).  If I had been distracted by the pianist, then it took only a few minutes to realise that this is a very special group led by a very expressive, communicative and generous leader.  The lineup on paper was breathtaking – Asaf Sirkis, Tom Farmer and Rob Palmer. Last minute changes of personnel saw Mark Whitlam and Joe Limburn replace the drummer and bass player respectively. They both had the gig of their lives, showing no signs of being replacements.  They were sensitively supported and encouraged by Jon and John, allowed solos and the freedom of their illustrious forebears on the album. It was a memorable evening, serving as a reminder, if one were needed, that excellent, accessible and enjoyable jazz can be heard outside London, you just have to make an effort to get there. The experience of the evening was an accurate flavour of the album.

All nine compositions are gems.  The exquisite X and Y  opens the album with buoyant bubbling soprano sax.  Even at its most penetrating, it has a warm, serene, caramel sound. The melody is pastoral, gentle, songlike. The lyricism of John Law is always heart stopping, such delicate shading, especially in Yaga where the piano could be a sitar. In 5678 I felt we were in square dance territory, where quick footwork was needed as the time signatures crossed, got jumbled and tripped each other up. It was fun!  I thought ‘This isn’t free jazz, I can hum this (phew!)’ and I relaxed, and so became more receptive to the delicacies on offer: the symphonic, almost-classical opening to V Points where the piano solo, with gentle snowflake motif (a signature John Law effect), creates a mood of uneasiness echoed by the slowly burning guitar, the wary walk of the sax towards a guitar that howls, a sense of chaos and pain which gently fades.  The thrum of fingers on piano wires.   There are many strands in this music, you uncover them with repeated listening. It is harmonious and democratic, there is no need for extended solos, yet take any instrument away and you would miss it. 

The video below, from June 2010 (and not on the album), is a wonderful taster of this very classy quintet, with slight changes of personnel.   They deserve greater recognition for the beauty of the harmonies and melodies, the purity and serenity of the saxophone, the electronic subtleties, its modesty despite a starry lineup.  The group tours in 2014, please go and see them! This group must not vanish.

Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points

All compositions by Jon Lloyd except Improv (Lloyd/Farmer/Sirkis)

Jon Lloyd, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
John Law, piano, fender rhodes
Rob Palmer, electric guitar
Tim Farmer, double bass
Asaf Sirkis, drums

Jon Lloyd

Mary James 17 December 2013

In praise of regional jazz clubs… revisited October 2013

It is three months since I first sang the praises of regional jazz clubs and their vital place on the jazz scene as platforms for all levels of talent.  I have been thinking, and I admit, worrying, about their future.  Neil Yates announced the end of Jazz at the Cayley in Rhos on Sea in October.   Personal phone calls and texts to regulars could not save it, numbers declined and so it closed.   I have often asserted that jazz holds itself far too cheaply, that some people wince at paying £12 for a ticket yet will spend nearly that on two glasses of wine whilst there. I am coming to the conclusion that if we are going to save our small jazz clubs then we all need to band together to help each other and be more vocal about the good things we offer.

So I was heartened to read about the recent creation of the Jazz Promoters Network (in the UK). I will join and will state on our application that we can offer the network decades of experience (between us anyway), boundless enthusiasm, genuine love for the music and its musicians, and the desire to learn – learn how to grow our audiences, learn how to offer opportunities for new work to be commissioned, learn how to support other jazz clubs and not compete with them, find sources of funding.

And then I look at our schedule at Stratford Jazz for early 2014:

  • Alan Barnes on 8 January to blow away the cobwebs;
  • TG Collective on 22 January, guitar-led ensemble;
  • Bryan Corbett Quartet on 12 February, a local trumpeter with a haunting sound;
  • Duncan Eagles/Mark Perry Quintet on 26 February, exciting young saxophonist and trumpeter, making waves in London;
  • John Law’s BOINK!  on 12 March. This is John’s move in electronica, subtle and clever as ever; and
  • Maciek Pysz Trio on 26 March, my favourite guitarist with his life-enhancing, stunningly good trio of Asaf Sirkis and Yuri Goloubev, playing compositions from his very well -received album Insight.

I would travel, and have travelled, to London to see these bands and here they are, gracing our small jazz club! Our evenings have two sets – great value for the audience and an opportunity for bands to experiment with new material, safe in the knowledge they have two hours of performance time.  We have an attractive venue with a bar, nice subtle lighting, decent sound, a big screen on which artists can project their own films or images, so adding another visual stimulus.  Sadly we have no piano. But we are a place where you can hear exciting new work in a very intimate environment.  We listen, we are appreciative.

Take the example below by John Law – his Boink!  project  – we are so lucky to be able to present John Law’s latest project next year. This is a sound that will project as well in our small room as in a larger venue and I for one am already wishing the time away til his gig.

If you have listened to the clip and enjoyed it as much as I do, then maybe you will see regional jazz clubs in a new light – as places where you can see boundaries pushed, which don’t just rely on a diet of standards. We are as hungry for new music as fans in cities. Where world class artists seek us out. Time to stop bemoaning our lot and time to shout very loudly ‘We are a great night out, come and join us, hear fabulous music close up, pay a little bit more  – because we are worth it!’.  Do you agree?

http://stratfordjazz.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/stratfordjazz.org.uk

https://twitter.com/StratfordJazz

http://www.shakespearestreet.co.uk/

Mary James