|Bill Laurance at the 100 Club
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015 All Rights Reserved.
(100 Club, in aid of the Samaritans, 9th April 2015; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
‘Last time I did a solo concert was when I was doing my A-levels – which is kinda weird!’ announced Bill Laurance, pianist with Grammy award-winning Snarky Puppy, who explained that this one-off gig at the 100 Club, to raise funds for the Samaritans, (previewed here) had come into being because his girlfriend works with the Samaritans.
Laurance, while studying at Leeds School of Music took an international study year at University of Texas, where he met Snarky Puppy’s Michael League and, as he has said, ‘the rest is history.’
The band’s education outreach featured in Laurance’s invitation to emerging percussionist, Felix Higginbottom, a NYJO alumnus who came through last year’s Wall of Sounds artistic residency with Snarky Puppy in Manchester, to join his second half trio completed by virtuoso acoustic guitarist, Juliano Modarelli, a fellow student with Laurance at Leeds. (We published Kieran McLeod’s account of participating in a previous Manchester residency)
Laurance’s spellbinding solo piano set had an ‘unplugged’ intimacy to it. His approach mixed the qualities of peaceful reflection and unabashed sentimentality with the gently dramatic that could burst in to full flow of power salsa or Ahmad Jamal-inspired jazz piano perfection.
The rolling chords of Chia from his first solo album, Flint, set the tone with a sense of filmic drama and a tinge of the middle east. His treatment of mid-50s Mexican folk song Cucurrucucu merged a touch of Satie with chanson, while Denmark Hill, dedicated to his girlfriend, saw his right hand cross over the left to take the bass lines while his left hand took the melody! The charmed lyricism of The Isles written in response to a panoramic aerial view on a tour flight led on to round off with flying glissandos and grin-inducing, syncopated polyrhythms well in to Snarky territory.
The trio adopted Modarelli’s immersion in the musical heritage of the Indian sub-continent with demon-fast guitar/piano synchronised runs summoning up the flavours of early Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, circa My Goal is Beyond. Higginbottom bided his time, with the restraint of his minimal percussion adding to the atmosphere of a simmering jam. He watched, hawk-like for each cue, added speed pattering as the trio got on a roll, and when Laurance rang the changes with a honey-sweet ‘first bossa’ written early in the year and a lilting Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, his tabla hand-drumming swung with the funky drive of Modarelli’s Indian-spiced Spanish guitar.
The evening gave a touching, personal insight in to Laurance’s playing and the breadth of his palette and to the ambition he has for this budding trio amongst his many projects. It was, too, a very strong platform for the lifeline that the Samaritans offer for those in the most difficult places in their lives.