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Kevin Lawlor - Last Days of Summer Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

Kevin Lawlor

“Last Days of Summer”

(Kevin Lawlor Music)

This self released recording represents the third album from the Wexford based drummer, composer, arranger and educator Kevin Lawlor.

Lawlor studied jazz in Dublin, Salzburg and New York before returning home to take up the post of Director of Jazz at County Wexford School of Music where he is also the resident drum tutor. He also helps to curate the jazz programme at Wexford Arts Centre.

In addition to his role as an educator Lawlor is also a busy performer who leads his own groups as well as collaborating with visiting international jazz musicians. One of his most fruitful alliances has been with the Welsh pianist and composer Dave Jones and it was Lawlor’s appearance on Jones’ excellent 2012 album “Resonance” that first brought his playing to my attention. Jones subsequently returned the compliment by guesting on Lawlor’s impressive leadership début “Exodus” (2013). The pair continue to perform together and Lawlor’s drumming can also be heard on Jones’ quartet recording “Live At AMG”, released in 2014.

Lawlor has played with many of Ireland’s leading jazz performers as well as musicians from Canada and Finland. He has also worked with other musicians from the UK and in February 2019 will undertake a short tour of Ireland as part of a trio led by British guitarist Chris Montague.


Both “Exodus” and Lawlor’s second album release from 2015, simply titled “Eight” after the number of tracks thereon, are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.  Both recordings highlight Lawlor’s considerable skills as a composer and arranger and “Last Days of Summer” continues the process by putting a greater emphasis on long form composition. The programme includes four new Lawlor originals plus an arrangement of the song “One Last Time”, written by Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk and an international hit for pop singer Ariana Grande. It’s an interesting choice, to say the least.

The quintet that Lawlor has assembled to perform this material is comprised of young Irish musicians hailing from Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Pat Molitor plays piano, keyboards and synthesiser, Adam Nolan plays tenor saxophone, Colm Lyndsay is on guitar and the group is completed by bassist Jack-Rufus Kelly.

As Lawlor explains the album features “three long form compositions with sections for improvisation as opposed to more traditional, self contained structures typical to jazz”.

Colour and texture are therefore important, as evidenced by the opening “Toucan Lullaby” with its combination of electric and acoustic instruments, with Molitor playing electric piano and other keyboards, helping to broaden the sound as Nolan solos fluently and expansively on tenor. The piece is divided into clearly delineated sections, the second of which is more sombre and impressionistic and includes a richly atmospheric solo from Lyndsay on guitar. The piece then gains momentum once more with the leader’s neatly energetic drumming featuring in the closing passages.

The title track initially embraces a more conventional jazz feel with Nolan’s melodic tenor stating the opening theme. Molitor moves to acoustic piano for a flowing solo supported by Lawlor’s crisp cymbal work. The music then takes a harder edged, almost funky turn as Nolan digs in on tenor with Lyndsay’s guitar also playing a prominent part in the arrangement. Lawlor’s drums are then featured once more in a rousing closing passage.

“Rise Of The Right Wing” commences with a freely structured dialogue between Nolan’s tenor and the leader’s drums. Out of this a minor key theme emerges featuring tenor, acoustic piano and shadowy guitar. As befits the title the ensuing ‘march’ section sounds positively threatening, an insistent, pounding piano motif underscoring doomy sax and guitar textures. The sinister mood continues through solos by Nolan on tenor and Lyndsay on heavily distorted, rock influenced guitar, with Lawlor’s drums continuing to perform a highly martial function. Even Molitor’s acoustic piano solo fails to lighten the listener’s unease as the piece continues to project an air of impending doom.
Effectively this is a protest song without words and suggests a new, more overtly political dimension to Lawlor’s writing.

This is continued on the following “AK 47” which introduces itself via Lyndsay’s siren like guitar atmospherics and Kelly’s accompanying electric bass groove. There’s a gritty, urban feel about the music here, which is almost funky at times. Lyndsay takes the first solo, his playing continuing to demonstrate a strong rock influence as he’s shadowed by Molitor’s whistling synth. Kelly’s bass groove continues to underpin Nolan’s gutsy tenor solo, this also underscored by swirling synth textures and choppy guitar chording. Lawlor, crisp, brisk and busy behind the kit remains a driving force throughout and features prominently in the tune’s closing stages.

Following the dystopian muscularity of the previous two pieces Lawlor’s arrangement of the Ariana Grande tune “One Last Time” comes as something of a relief. I may be reading too much into this but it’s tempting to view these three tracks as being thematically linked with “Rise Of The Right Wing” and “AK 47” corresponding to the violence of the Manchester Arena bombing and other global atrocities, while the choice of the Grande song is an expression of the hope and humanity generated by the singer’s subsequent “One Love Manchester” charity event at the city’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground.
Certainly the mood is lighter and more celebratory here in a convincing jazz arrangement of what was originally an EDM pop song. There’s a breezy, almost Brazilian feel to the piece which includes lithe solos from Lyndsay on guitar,  Nolan on tenor , Molitor on electric piano and Kelly on electric bass as Lawlor pushes things forward subtly but energetically. Fittingly the leader also enjoys a feature of his own prior to a final collective theme statement.

Recorded by engineer Ollie Dempsey in the Jerome Hynes space at the National Opera House in Wexford during June 2018 “Last Days of Summer” represents a worthy addition to the Lawlor canon.

It’s also substantially different to his previous recordings with the original compositions encompassing both a classically inspired sense of form and a powerful, rock influenced sense of dynamics. Nevertheless it remains unquestionably a jazz record, albeit one that embraces a broader range of influences than before. Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

I was also impressed by the skill and intelligence of the leader’s young colleagues, who all solo effectively while bringing a youthful zest vitality to the work. All four are undoubtedly names to look out for in the future.

“Last Days of Summer” is a limited edition CD that can be purchased directly from Lawlor’s website http://www.kevinlawlor.com, and presumably at gigs.

Once the 100 numbered copies have been sold the album will become available on selected streaming services.

Last Days of Summer

Kevin Lawlor

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Last Days of Summer

Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

Kevin Lawlor

“Last Days of Summer”

(Kevin Lawlor Music)

This self released recording represents the third album from the Wexford based drummer, composer, arranger and educator Kevin Lawlor.

Lawlor studied jazz in Dublin, Salzburg and New York before returning home to take up the post of Director of Jazz at County Wexford School of Music where he is also the resident drum tutor. He also helps to curate the jazz programme at Wexford Arts Centre.

In addition to his role as an educator Lawlor is also a busy performer who leads his own groups as well as collaborating with visiting international jazz musicians. One of his most fruitful alliances has been with the Welsh pianist and composer Dave Jones and it was Lawlor’s appearance on Jones’ excellent 2012 album “Resonance” that first brought his playing to my attention. Jones subsequently returned the compliment by guesting on Lawlor’s impressive leadership début “Exodus” (2013). The pair continue to perform together and Lawlor’s drumming can also be heard on Jones’ quartet recording “Live At AMG”, released in 2014.

Lawlor has played with many of Ireland’s leading jazz performers as well as musicians from Canada and Finland. He has also worked with other musicians from the UK and in February 2019 will undertake a short tour of Ireland as part of a trio led by British guitarist Chris Montague.


Both “Exodus” and Lawlor’s second album release from 2015, simply titled “Eight” after the number of tracks thereon, are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.  Both recordings highlight Lawlor’s considerable skills as a composer and arranger and “Last Days of Summer” continues the process by putting a greater emphasis on long form composition. The programme includes four new Lawlor originals plus an arrangement of the song “One Last Time”, written by Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk and an international hit for pop singer Ariana Grande. It’s an interesting choice, to say the least.

The quintet that Lawlor has assembled to perform this material is comprised of young Irish musicians hailing from Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Pat Molitor plays piano, keyboards and synthesiser, Adam Nolan plays tenor saxophone, Colm Lyndsay is on guitar and the group is completed by bassist Jack-Rufus Kelly.

As Lawlor explains the album features “three long form compositions with sections for improvisation as opposed to more traditional, self contained structures typical to jazz”.

Colour and texture are therefore important, as evidenced by the opening “Toucan Lullaby” with its combination of electric and acoustic instruments, with Molitor playing electric piano and other keyboards, helping to broaden the sound as Nolan solos fluently and expansively on tenor. The piece is divided into clearly delineated sections, the second of which is more sombre and impressionistic and includes a richly atmospheric solo from Lyndsay on guitar. The piece then gains momentum once more with the leader’s neatly energetic drumming featuring in the closing passages.

The title track initially embraces a more conventional jazz feel with Nolan’s melodic tenor stating the opening theme. Molitor moves to acoustic piano for a flowing solo supported by Lawlor’s crisp cymbal work. The music then takes a harder edged, almost funky turn as Nolan digs in on tenor with Lyndsay’s guitar also playing a prominent part in the arrangement. Lawlor’s drums are then featured once more in a rousing closing passage.

“Rise Of The Right Wing” commences with a freely structured dialogue between Nolan’s tenor and the leader’s drums. Out of this a minor key theme emerges featuring tenor, acoustic piano and shadowy guitar. As befits the title the ensuing ‘march’ section sounds positively threatening, an insistent, pounding piano motif underscoring doomy sax and guitar textures. The sinister mood continues through solos by Nolan on tenor and Lyndsay on heavily distorted, rock influenced guitar, with Lawlor’s drums continuing to perform a highly martial function. Even Molitor’s acoustic piano solo fails to lighten the listener’s unease as the piece continues to project an air of impending doom.
Effectively this is a protest song without words and suggests a new, more overtly political dimension to Lawlor’s writing.

This is continued on the following “AK 47” which introduces itself via Lyndsay’s siren like guitar atmospherics and Kelly’s accompanying electric bass groove. There’s a gritty, urban feel about the music here, which is almost funky at times. Lyndsay takes the first solo, his playing continuing to demonstrate a strong rock influence as he’s shadowed by Molitor’s whistling synth. Kelly’s bass groove continues to underpin Nolan’s gutsy tenor solo, this also underscored by swirling synth textures and choppy guitar chording. Lawlor, crisp, brisk and busy behind the kit remains a driving force throughout and features prominently in the tune’s closing stages.

Following the dystopian muscularity of the previous two pieces Lawlor’s arrangement of the Ariana Grande tune “One Last Time” comes as something of a relief. I may be reading too much into this but it’s tempting to view these three tracks as being thematically linked with “Rise Of The Right Wing” and “AK 47” corresponding to the violence of the Manchester Arena bombing and other global atrocities, while the choice of the Grande song is an expression of the hope and humanity generated by the singer’s subsequent “One Love Manchester” charity event at the city’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground.
Certainly the mood is lighter and more celebratory here in a convincing jazz arrangement of what was originally an EDM pop song. There’s a breezy, almost Brazilian feel to the piece which includes lithe solos from Lyndsay on guitar,  Nolan on tenor , Molitor on electric piano and Kelly on electric bass as Lawlor pushes things forward subtly but energetically. Fittingly the leader also enjoys a feature of his own prior to a final collective theme statement.

Recorded by engineer Ollie Dempsey in the Jerome Hynes space at the National Opera House in Wexford during June 2018 “Last Days of Summer” represents a worthy addition to the Lawlor canon.

It’s also substantially different to his previous recordings with the original compositions encompassing both a classically inspired sense of form and a powerful, rock influenced sense of dynamics. Nevertheless it remains unquestionably a jazz record, albeit one that embraces a broader range of influences than before. Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

I was also impressed by the skill and intelligence of the leader’s young colleagues, who all solo effectively while bringing a youthful zest vitality to the work. All four are undoubtedly names to look out for in the future.

“Last Days of Summer” is a limited edition CD that can be purchased directly from Lawlor’s website http://www.kevinlawlor.com, and presumably at gigs.

Once the 100 numbered copies have been sold the album will become available on selected streaming services.


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