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Bill Laurance Project - St Georges Church - 29th May 2015

Bill Laurance Project - St Georges Church - 29th May 2015

A full St Georges Church welcomed the Bill Laurence Project, for what was the last show after an intense European tour supporting his latest album Swift (2015). Bill Laurance is a Grammy Award winning pianist and is one of the founding members of the internationally acclaimired Snarky Puppy. His first album under his own name, Flint (2014), entered the iTunes Jazz chart at number one and was greatly-admired for its combination of all sorts of musical elements. With so many different genres that come thought in their music, I can guarantee that any listener would find something that would be to their liking. The live line-up featured the effortless Robert ‘Sput’ Searight on drums and the expressive bassist Michael League who are both from Snarky Puppy, augmented by a miniature orchestra combining a trio of strings and a French horn from the Metropole Orchestra.
 
The night began with an ultra-relaxed combo of Bill switching between three different piano’s and Sput adding lots of little sounds to his already impressive drum beat. With the addition of a funky bassline and the ethereal sounds of the strings, made ‘The Rush’ the perfect song to show off Bill Laurance Project’s musical prestige. A more dramatic feel was introduced by the Smooth Jazz sounds of ‘Neverending City’, which had the band pushing themselves to produce a full and perfect sound. Next was ‘December In New York’, a beautiful song that emotes a clear image – the piano and swashing wire brushes on the kit drum gave the feel of a busy city covered by a snow storm. It had such a natural sound that you suddenly realise that what had started as a minimal melody, had unknowingly built up to this complete sound with all instruments involved. There is such a cinematic quality to the composition, as if it were made for an interpretative dance routine. One of my favourite songs of the evening was ‘The Good Things’, played only by the trio. It had a similar structure to a Drum & Bass song, having a sharp quick drum beat and long deep bass notes from Michael’s moog bass, but still keeping true to their Jazz stylings by almost venturing into 70s Prog Rock sound. They ended their first set with the lovely lullaby sounds of the grand piano with strings, playing ‘The Isles’ before going into reggae influenced and fan favourite, ‘Smoking Castles’. This first set showcased the remarkable craftsmanship of the Bill Laurance Project as well as the range of diversity in their inspirations.
 
As it was getting dark outside, the church had become more intimate and atmospheric. They started their final set with ‘Denmark Hill’, a song about Bill’s time in South London. The mellow mood the song emits makes it one of my favourite chill-out songs, holding a jazzy Trip-Hop sound, like in a Lemon Jelly song, as well as allowing Sput to play within its loose rhythm. Then the hectic and boomy sounds of ‘Swift’ filled the church with its beautifully hypnotic melodies, similar to the now electronic jazz trio Portico, mixing jazz vibes with electronic ideas. “This one is going to have a bit of swag to it” promised Bill as he introduced ‘Swag Times’ which got one of the best receptions of the night – understandably so. The space-music effects on the keyboards and Michael’s funky bass line made this electronic song in disguise one of the highlight’s of the show. Things took a melancholic tone for the final two tacks of the evening. ‘Fjords’, a song written at an airport gate in Norway, had Bill sometimes playing with one hand behind his back as he switched between three pianos (synth pads, vocoder and grand piano) whilst the stupendous Sput’s phenomenally explosive and precise drumming put the room into wonderment. There was no mistaking the emotion with a song about ‘Audrey’, the Grandmother Bill never knew, being even more poignant as his Brighton based mother was in the front row.
 
It was a beautiful way to close a concert nobody wanted to end. The whole band seemed to be at one with their music, and their enjoyment in playing was so obvious. Throughout the show, the audience where amazed by the impeccable quality of the sound and ingenuity of the band. They managed to blend multiple genres into their loose Jazz Fusion format, making for an impressive and memorable concert that never dulled, and left the entire audience in gleeful adulation as they stood applauding in ovation, knowing they had witnessed masters of their craft producing exceptional music.
Iain Lauder

 




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