Steve Lawson/Jez Carr - "Conversations"
(Pillow Mountain Records 2002, pmr 0012)
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
My introduction to bassist Steve Lawson's music was his And Nothing But The Bass CD (see AI #15), a solo bass performance that featured Lawson playing with a live sampler and accompanying himself on the resulting loops. On Conversations Lawson teams up with pianist Jez Carr for a set of excursions that explore ambient, New Age and jazz music, but with twist provided by Lawson's loops and effects.
On "Destination Unknown" Lawson plays bending notes on the fretless while Carr plays a simple but calming melody on the piano. The combination is beautifully serene. Each of the bass notes speaks volume... they're incredibly deep and under the headphones I felt this pleasant winding effect in my head. And things get even more interesting than that. Lawson is also embellishing the meditative duo performance with guitar-like playing and fun freaky bits produced by his looping techniques. They duo will be playing along in an ambient jazzy style when all of a sudden a chorus of noodling spacey sounds will come in sounding like a herd of gremlins launching an attack. These guys create highly meditative music and then they slip a mickey into your mantra. I love it! "Sweet ‘n' Spiky/Shades Of Creation" is similar but jazzier. And at 18 minutes the duo really stretch out and explore a variety of musical ideas that all fit together nicely. "WhateverWhatever / Migration" also finds Carr playing in a calm but jazzy style while Lawson lays down a bit of a groove to accompany it and, of course, treats us to more fun sounds that give the feeling of a strange alien conversation with the piano. Finally, each musician has a solo track but they're so short that neither has the opportunity to go anywhere with it.
In summary, Steve Lawson has got to be one of the most tasteful bassists I've heard in a long time and is certainly a creative player who focuses on sound and the quality of individual notes, not to mention different ways of speaking with his instrument. Carr's playing makes for a very nice conversational partner to the bass but won't prompt you to dash out and find more of his work. This is subtle music that demands your undivided attention lest you miss all the little imaginative bits that Lawson injects to make for a relaxing and contemplative listening experience.
For more information you can visit the Steve Lawson web site at: http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk/.
Conversations is distributed by Pillow Mountain Records. You can visit their web site at: http://www.pillowmountainrecords.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Pillow Mountain Records; PO Box 13788; N14 5ER; London, UK.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz