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Simon Lasky Group - About the Moment Rating: 4 out of 5 The leader’s compositions are unfailingly melodic, filled with interesting compositional ideas, and the playing by an excellent core quartet plus three very well chosen guests is superb throughout.

Simon Lasky Group

“About the Moment”

(33 Records 33JAZZ272)

Simon Lasky is a British pianist, composer, arranger and educator capable of performing music across a broad range of the jazz spectrum in formats ranging from solo piano to sextet.

Biographical details are scarce and I first came across Lasky’s name when guest contributor Marc Edwards submitted a very favourable review of Lasky’s performance with a quartet at St. Andrews Church in Caversham, Reading in October 2017. This was a standards based show which teamed the pianist with vocalist Jessica Radcliffe, bassist Robert Rickenberg and multi-reed player Simon Bates.

Marc’s review of that event can be read in full here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/simon-lasky-quartet-st.-andrews-church-caversham-reading-berkshire-14-10-20/

The Caversham performance also included a couple of Lasky originals, “Coming Home” and “New Day”, the first of these drawn from Lasky’s 2015 début album “Story Inside” (33 Jazz, 2015), the latter from this current recording.

Lasky’s début featured a sextet including Shanti Paul Jayasinha (trumpet, flugel), Luca Boscagin (guitar), Peter Billington (electric bass), Jeff Lardner (drums) and Satin Singh (percussion). Critically well received the album presented a contemporary blend of melodic electric jazz with world music elements, inspired by artists such as guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Chick Corea and saxophonist Andy Sheppard.

For his second album of original music for the 33 label Lasky has restructured his Group to create a core quartet featuring Boscagin, Billington and new drummer Sophie Alloway, the latter previously heard with Wild Card, the Shez Raja Collective and guitarist Giulio Romano Malaisi .

“About the Moment” also includes substantial contributions from guest musicians with Kuljit Bhamra playing tabla on three tracks and Fergus Gerrand percussion on a further four. Harmonica player Philip Achille appears alongside both percussionists and adds a distinctive additional instrumental voice on four of the album’s ten tracks.

For the purposes of this recording Lasky’s compositions are based around the concept of ‘tension and release’ with the classically trained Lasky drawing upon the influences of the composers that he studied in his youth, notably Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner, Olivier Messiaen and Witold Lutoslawski. It’s the big symphonic works of these composers that have inspired Lasky and while he freely admits that a six piece jazz group can’t exactly recreate the power of a ninety piece symphony orchestra he’s still searching for a similar effect.

“I have always liked those ‘big moments’ in music” Lasky explains, “a build up of tension, then a climax and a release; a moment in time which takes your breath away; which induces a physiological response in the listener. Each of the individual compositions on this album do contain carefully structured moments of tension and release, which, I hope creates a dramatic narrative to the music and an engaging listening experience”.

He explains the choice of album title thus;
“In a world of increasing technological distractions and demands on our time, we are constantly being told that we must live more ‘in the moment’. Life really is about those moments, and if they can take our breath away so much the better”.

The recording of “About The Moment” was assisted by a successful crowd-funding campaign with Lasky dedicating some of the pieces to people who specifically supported individual compositions.

Despite the classical inspirations the group sound is broadly fusion-esque with Metheny an obvious reference point. The rousing opener “Dancing In The Rain” features a winning combination of acoustic piano and electric guitar. Luca Boscagin is a relatively new name to me but his playing on this piece is excellent, combining a strong melodic sense with a genuine rock power on his solo. He uses his effects wisely and links up well with leader Lasky. Elsewhere Billington supplies a vibrant bass groove and features with a funky, bubbling solo. Alloway’s crisp, precise drumming helps to drive the tune along and hold to the piece together.

“She Said” adds guests Bhamra and Achille to the core quartet, adding a little exotica to the group sound. Achille’s harmonica combines well with Billington’s liquid fretless bass on a tune that is perhaps more Metheny-esque than the opener. The harmonica player takes the first solo, bringing back memories of the late Toots Thielemann’s collaboration with Metheny on “Secret Story” and Gregoire Maret’s contribution to “The Way Up”. Boscagin follows on acoustic guitar and is equally convincing on this version of the instrument. Billington and Bhamra are featured in an engaging dialogue while Lasky seems content to keep a low profile on acoustic piano.

Bhamra and Achille remain on board for “Mountain Spirit”,which presents a more up-tempo version of this sextet with Boscagin soloing fluently on electric guitar followed by Achille on harmonica. Lasky follows on acoustic piano, taking the opportunity to cut loose for the first time. His solo is followed by a sudden gear shift into a funky, galloping closing section that epitomises those stylisic shifts and dynamic contrasts of which Lasky speaks.

Achille sits out the atmospheric “Nightrider”, played by the core quartet plus Bhamra. Boscagin’s spacey guitar effects give the piece a vaguely unsettling ambience, something encouraged by Alloway’s cymbal shimmers and the patter of the tabla. As the piece opens out Lasky contributes a thoughtful acoustic piano solo but it’s Boscagin’s heavily treated guitar that remains the most distinctive component.

The brief “Intro to Close To Ecstasy” introduces a new group with the quartet joined by Achille and Gerrand for the first time. Billington’s fretless bass takes the melody on the intro, sounding a little like Eberhard Weber, with Achilles’ harmonica subsequently taking over before the piece segues into “Close To Ecstasy” itself, Lasky’s buoyant piano motif shaping the course of the tune.
Bright, colourful and highly rhythmic the piece includes a flowing acoustic piano solo from Lasky. Achille’s harmonica soars like a lark during his solo and he’s followed by a lithe, fleet fingered fretboard excursion from Boscagin. It’s an appropriate title, this tune is like a healthy swig of bottled sunshine.

Dedicated to Lasky’s young niece “Mila’s Song” is a delightful solo piano performance, albeit with Boscagin and engineer Nick Pugh both credited as co-arrangers.

The languid, Latin-esque “Mendocina” is named after a town in Northern California and is dedicated to Lasky’s American supporters. It features the core quartet plus Gerrand and incorporates a motif that sometimes reminded me of Metheny’s “Are You Going With Me?” from the “Offramp” album. The piece includes expansive, leisurely solos from Lasky on acoustic piano and Boscagin on acoustic guitar.

“Chasing Shadows”, featuring the core quartet, increases the energy levels once more, its buoyant grooves supporting darting, airy melodies and fluent solo statements from Lasky on both acoustic piano and electric keyboards. There’s also an engaging electric bass solo from the multi-talented Peter Billington, himself a highly accomplished pianist who once played this instrument as member of drummer Clark Tracey’s quintet back in 2009 (he’d previously played bass for Tracey too). Alloway follows with a colourful drum feature as she exchanges ideas with other members of the group. It’s a fitting reward for her assured work behind the kit throughout the album.

The album ends on a more reflective note with “New Day”, a tune written to celebrate the short life of Vanessa Moss, the young daughter of friends of Lasky’s who died during the time of the recording of the album. It features the duo of Lasky and Boscagin, the latter’s thoughtful guitar melodies underpinned by the composer’s insistent piano chording. Lasky periodically takes up the melodic reins, giving the piece an almost hymnal feel. It represents a beautiful and very personal way to round off a very good album.

There is much to admire about this second album from the Simon Lasky Group. The leader’s compositions are unfailingly melodic, filled with interesting compositional ideas and the playing by an excellent core quartet plus three very well chosen guests is superb throughout. The album meets the high production standards we have come to expect from 33 with the production team of Lasky and Pugh delivering a crystal clear mix in which all the musicians can be heard to good effect.

As a soloist Lasky himself is relatively undemonstrative but his playing and writing is at the heart of the music and serves it faithfully. He’s prepared to give his fellow musicians plenty of space and I was particularly impressed by the contribution of Boscagin, a versatile and imaginative guitarist who will definitely be a name to look out for in the future. Italian born but London based he has previously worked with the band Radio Londra, led by drummer Enzo Zirilli.

It could be argued that Lasky’s music is a little derivative and, at times, it reminded me of both Metheny and The Impossible Gentlemen but this is no bad thing, and fans of these acts are likely to find plenty to enjoy in Lasky’s music. One would also imagine that hearing this music played live would also be a highly satisfying experience, as Marc Edwards has previously suggested. This is an album capable of giving pleasure to a good many listeners and, as such, is thoroughly recommended.


COMMENTS;

From Simon Lasky via email;


Just wanted to drop you a quick line to say thanks so much for taking the time to review my album. It’s a wonderful review (you really get what we’re trying to do) and I know you get sent tons of stuff, so thank you for choosing to review mine. I’m very grateful.
Next gig is Weds 30th May at The Bull’s Head in Barnes:
https://tickets.thebullsheadbarnes.com/events/2018-05-30-the-simon-lasky-group-bulls-head-barnes

About the Moment

Simon Lasky Group

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

About the Moment

The leader’s compositions are unfailingly melodic, filled with interesting compositional ideas, and the playing by an excellent core quartet plus three very well chosen guests is superb throughout.

Simon Lasky Group

“About the Moment”

(33 Records 33JAZZ272)

Simon Lasky is a British pianist, composer, arranger and educator capable of performing music across a broad range of the jazz spectrum in formats ranging from solo piano to sextet.

Biographical details are scarce and I first came across Lasky’s name when guest contributor Marc Edwards submitted a very favourable review of Lasky’s performance with a quartet at St. Andrews Church in Caversham, Reading in October 2017. This was a standards based show which teamed the pianist with vocalist Jessica Radcliffe, bassist Robert Rickenberg and multi-reed player Simon Bates.

Marc’s review of that event can be read in full here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/simon-lasky-quartet-st.-andrews-church-caversham-reading-berkshire-14-10-20/

The Caversham performance also included a couple of Lasky originals, “Coming Home” and “New Day”, the first of these drawn from Lasky’s 2015 début album “Story Inside” (33 Jazz, 2015), the latter from this current recording.

Lasky’s début featured a sextet including Shanti Paul Jayasinha (trumpet, flugel), Luca Boscagin (guitar), Peter Billington (electric bass), Jeff Lardner (drums) and Satin Singh (percussion). Critically well received the album presented a contemporary blend of melodic electric jazz with world music elements, inspired by artists such as guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Chick Corea and saxophonist Andy Sheppard.

For his second album of original music for the 33 label Lasky has restructured his Group to create a core quartet featuring Boscagin, Billington and new drummer Sophie Alloway, the latter previously heard with Wild Card, the Shez Raja Collective and guitarist Giulio Romano Malaisi .

“About the Moment” also includes substantial contributions from guest musicians with Kuljit Bhamra playing tabla on three tracks and Fergus Gerrand percussion on a further four. Harmonica player Philip Achille appears alongside both percussionists and adds a distinctive additional instrumental voice on four of the album’s ten tracks.

For the purposes of this recording Lasky’s compositions are based around the concept of ‘tension and release’ with the classically trained Lasky drawing upon the influences of the composers that he studied in his youth, notably Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner, Olivier Messiaen and Witold Lutoslawski. It’s the big symphonic works of these composers that have inspired Lasky and while he freely admits that a six piece jazz group can’t exactly recreate the power of a ninety piece symphony orchestra he’s still searching for a similar effect.

“I have always liked those ‘big moments’ in music” Lasky explains, “a build up of tension, then a climax and a release; a moment in time which takes your breath away; which induces a physiological response in the listener. Each of the individual compositions on this album do contain carefully structured moments of tension and release, which, I hope creates a dramatic narrative to the music and an engaging listening experience”.

He explains the choice of album title thus;
“In a world of increasing technological distractions and demands on our time, we are constantly being told that we must live more ‘in the moment’. Life really is about those moments, and if they can take our breath away so much the better”.

The recording of “About The Moment” was assisted by a successful crowd-funding campaign with Lasky dedicating some of the pieces to people who specifically supported individual compositions.

Despite the classical inspirations the group sound is broadly fusion-esque with Metheny an obvious reference point. The rousing opener “Dancing In The Rain” features a winning combination of acoustic piano and electric guitar. Luca Boscagin is a relatively new name to me but his playing on this piece is excellent, combining a strong melodic sense with a genuine rock power on his solo. He uses his effects wisely and links up well with leader Lasky. Elsewhere Billington supplies a vibrant bass groove and features with a funky, bubbling solo. Alloway’s crisp, precise drumming helps to drive the tune along and hold to the piece together.

“She Said” adds guests Bhamra and Achille to the core quartet, adding a little exotica to the group sound. Achille’s harmonica combines well with Billington’s liquid fretless bass on a tune that is perhaps more Metheny-esque than the opener. The harmonica player takes the first solo, bringing back memories of the late Toots Thielemann’s collaboration with Metheny on “Secret Story” and Gregoire Maret’s contribution to “The Way Up”. Boscagin follows on acoustic guitar and is equally convincing on this version of the instrument. Billington and Bhamra are featured in an engaging dialogue while Lasky seems content to keep a low profile on acoustic piano.

Bhamra and Achille remain on board for “Mountain Spirit”,which presents a more up-tempo version of this sextet with Boscagin soloing fluently on electric guitar followed by Achille on harmonica. Lasky follows on acoustic piano, taking the opportunity to cut loose for the first time. His solo is followed by a sudden gear shift into a funky, galloping closing section that epitomises those stylisic shifts and dynamic contrasts of which Lasky speaks.

Achille sits out the atmospheric “Nightrider”, played by the core quartet plus Bhamra. Boscagin’s spacey guitar effects give the piece a vaguely unsettling ambience, something encouraged by Alloway’s cymbal shimmers and the patter of the tabla. As the piece opens out Lasky contributes a thoughtful acoustic piano solo but it’s Boscagin’s heavily treated guitar that remains the most distinctive component.

The brief “Intro to Close To Ecstasy” introduces a new group with the quartet joined by Achille and Gerrand for the first time. Billington’s fretless bass takes the melody on the intro, sounding a little like Eberhard Weber, with Achilles’ harmonica subsequently taking over before the piece segues into “Close To Ecstasy” itself, Lasky’s buoyant piano motif shaping the course of the tune.
Bright, colourful and highly rhythmic the piece includes a flowing acoustic piano solo from Lasky. Achille’s harmonica soars like a lark during his solo and he’s followed by a lithe, fleet fingered fretboard excursion from Boscagin. It’s an appropriate title, this tune is like a healthy swig of bottled sunshine.

Dedicated to Lasky’s young niece “Mila’s Song” is a delightful solo piano performance, albeit with Boscagin and engineer Nick Pugh both credited as co-arrangers.

The languid, Latin-esque “Mendocina” is named after a town in Northern California and is dedicated to Lasky’s American supporters. It features the core quartet plus Gerrand and incorporates a motif that sometimes reminded me of Metheny’s “Are You Going With Me?” from the “Offramp” album. The piece includes expansive, leisurely solos from Lasky on acoustic piano and Boscagin on acoustic guitar.

“Chasing Shadows”, featuring the core quartet, increases the energy levels once more, its buoyant grooves supporting darting, airy melodies and fluent solo statements from Lasky on both acoustic piano and electric keyboards. There’s also an engaging electric bass solo from the multi-talented Peter Billington, himself a highly accomplished pianist who once played this instrument as member of drummer Clark Tracey’s quintet back in 2009 (he’d previously played bass for Tracey too). Alloway follows with a colourful drum feature as she exchanges ideas with other members of the group. It’s a fitting reward for her assured work behind the kit throughout the album.

The album ends on a more reflective note with “New Day”, a tune written to celebrate the short life of Vanessa Moss, the young daughter of friends of Lasky’s who died during the time of the recording of the album. It features the duo of Lasky and Boscagin, the latter’s thoughtful guitar melodies underpinned by the composer’s insistent piano chording. Lasky periodically takes up the melodic reins, giving the piece an almost hymnal feel. It represents a beautiful and very personal way to round off a very good album.

There is much to admire about this second album from the Simon Lasky Group. The leader’s compositions are unfailingly melodic, filled with interesting compositional ideas and the playing by an excellent core quartet plus three very well chosen guests is superb throughout. The album meets the high production standards we have come to expect from 33 with the production team of Lasky and Pugh delivering a crystal clear mix in which all the musicians can be heard to good effect.

As a soloist Lasky himself is relatively undemonstrative but his playing and writing is at the heart of the music and serves it faithfully. He’s prepared to give his fellow musicians plenty of space and I was particularly impressed by the contribution of Boscagin, a versatile and imaginative guitarist who will definitely be a name to look out for in the future. Italian born but London based he has previously worked with the band Radio Londra, led by drummer Enzo Zirilli.

It could be argued that Lasky’s music is a little derivative and, at times, it reminded me of both Metheny and The Impossible Gentlemen but this is no bad thing, and fans of these acts are likely to find plenty to enjoy in Lasky’s music. One would also imagine that hearing this music played live would also be a highly satisfying experience, as Marc Edwards has previously suggested. This is an album capable of giving pleasure to a good many listeners and, as such, is thoroughly recommended.


COMMENTS;

From Simon Lasky via email;


Just wanted to drop you a quick line to say thanks so much for taking the time to review my album. It’s a wonderful review (you really get what we’re trying to do) and I know you get sent tons of stuff, so thank you for choosing to review mine. I’m very grateful.
Next gig is Weds 30th May at The Bull’s Head in Barnes:
https://tickets.thebullsheadbarnes.com/events/2018-05-30-the-simon-lasky-group-bulls-head-barnes


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