PORTLAND soul-jazz singer and pianist Jarrod Lawson’s talent is formidable: his fingers fluttered up and down the keys and his voice up and down the scales like a leaf in the wind. More remarkable still was the laid-back ease with which he did it. He could practically have been doing the crossword with one hand and still not dropped a note.
Jarrod Lawson - The Rio Club, Glasgow
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Such abundant technical ability can often be flaunted at the expense of something more meaningful. But as Lawson performed the bulk of his self-titled debut album, supported by a three-piece band and two backing vocalists, you got a strong sense that he’s the kind of writer who ruminates deep and hard about where his songs come from and what they stand for.
In numbers such as Not Gonna Let Em’ and Together We’ll Stand, the great exponents of “message music”, as he called them, were invoked: Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder (Wonder was a constant touchstone throughout, particularly in Lawson’s singing style and heavy spiritualism). But that’s not to say he can’t bash-out a straight-up feel-good number too when the feeling takes him, such as the super smooth All That Surrounds.
It was easier to feel impressed than necessarily emotionally invested, though a near flawless duet with backing vocalist Tahirah Memory on gospel-soul ballad All The Time will have surely dampened the corners of one or two eyes. The hypnotically funky Gotta Keep closed, but not before a cake with candles appeared for surprised-looking drummer Josh Corry and the rest of the ensemble sung him Happy Birthday. They even made the most routinely butchered of songs sound sweet.
Seen on 26.06.15