The Simon Lasky Group – Story Inside
(33 Records. 33JAZZ248. CD Review by Rob Mallows)
Story Inside is the debut release from this London-based six-piece band led by pianist Simon Lasky, who’s been around the London scene for a while but is only now bringing his classically-trained skills to bear in the recording studio with these nine compositions.
On this album he’s joined by Shanti Paul Jayasinha on flugelhorn, Luca Boscagin on electric and acoustic guitars, Pete Billington on electric and fretless basses, Satin Singh on tabla and percussion, and Jeff Lardner on drums. Producers Lasky and Nick Pugh have coaxed a glacier-fresh sound from the band.
Story Inside feels like a paean to well-constructed, uncluttered composition and honest-to-goodness musical texture. There are no rough edges to this sound. In fact, with the melting butterscotch tone of the flugelhorn upfront on many tracks, this album has a languid, soft and thoughtful air which is reflected in a largely laid-back tempo across the album – exemplified by the sparing drum accompaniment – which nevertheless still delivers on some tracks spikes of energy to jolt the listener from their jazz reverie.
The first and last tracks – Prologue: Song for Istara and Epilogue: Please Turn up the Quiet – are simple piano-led pieces which serve to book-end the rest of the tracks rather nicely by focusing on atmosphere rather than groove, allowing the music to stand and breathe. Second track Let Me In jumps in with a bossa-style beat over which the beautiful tone of Jayasinha’s flugelhorn is given full rein, its softness contrasted by the more sparky guitar sound of Boscagin, providing a real fire and ice contrast.
Lasky apparently draws creative inspiration from the Pat Metheny Group, but I also detected elements in the group’s sound of Chick Corea Elektric Band and Andy Sheppard’s In Co-Motion from the early 1990s at times. A good number of the tracks are slower tempo ballads, such as slightly nondescript track three Coming Home, with Jayasinha’s flugelhorn gorgeously flamboyant.
Morning Bright’s thumping left-hand piano intro brings the energy right back up before bleeding into a simple melody which introduces a luscious electric guitar section from Boscagin and a scattergun motif from Lasky which unleashes the improvisational passion which has been someone restrained up to now, but maintains the compositional wholeness of the track throughout. This composition fair rolls along with rare groove and is a candidate for best track on the album. Story Inside, the title track, in contrast didn’t really grab me instantly. It sounds a little like the part in a soundtrack to a romantic comedy where the female lead is mourning the apparent loss of her sweetheart, tending as it does to urge a little on the maudlin at times while managing to avoid any overtly saccharine pitfalls. More of a grower, perhaps.
Two Worlds showcases the tabla playing of Satin Singh, whose introduction provides a rhythmscape onto which some basic, but emotion-packed chords are thumped out in the classical-style by Lasky in lieu of a melody in the opening section, before Lardner’s crash symbol introduces a melody of home-spun charm and simple positivity that raises the spirits.
This album has an predominance of ballads and softer tones. Nevertheless the overall mood of the music and the almost German-engineered quality of the lyrical compositions gives it a sheen and smooth ride which affords the listener a diverting, relaxing and uncomplicated hour.