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Bill Laurance & Michael League – Where You Wish You Were

Brooklyn-based fusion band Snarky Puppy is led by bassist, composer, and producer Michael League. It’s a collective of almost 40 musicians, with pianist, keyboardist and composer Bill Laurance being one of them. Michael League has recently moved to Spain where this duo album was recorded. He’s playing fretless acoustic guitar bass, fretless baritone electric guitar, ngoni, a traditional West African guitar, and oud, a lute-type, fretless stringed instrument with a short neck. That’s the basis for this fascinatingly intimate and tight set of 11 compositions. It has a lot of Mediterranean and Oriental contents which shouldn’t be that surprising since Michael’s family is of Greek ancestry and his brother specializes in Greek folk music. And thus, this comes across as a 40-minute meditation.

Bill Laurance & Michael League "Where You Wish You Were"

Five pieces were composed by both of them, four by Michael, and two by Bill. What they all have in common: a relentless balance of clarity and vulnerability, and an unexpectedly soothing quality in the melodies of the tunes. Just listen to the opening “La Marinada” and “Meeting Of The Mind”, and be aware that you’re in for a real treat. “Round House” is like a twirling dance, like an ephemeral encounter of like minds. There is a liquid dynamism to it that really got me hooked. And there is a lot of melancholy, interwoven with a calmness and serenity that is much too rare these days (“Sant Esteve”).

On “Kin”, one of two pieces written by Bill, the two create a sonic palette of ease and tranquility, like a flowing river which peacefully meanders through a William Turner composed landscape. There is a little more suspense and drama on “Tricks” where Bill creates mystical patterns and arpeggios which add to the overall sneakiness of the tune. And then it’s back to folk terrain on “Anthem For A Tiny Nation”. Bold and beautiful. The vastness conveyed on “Ngoni Bany” is breathtaking. The forcing, driving “Bricks” almost feels like a foreign body at first, but integrates itself after a few spins. Both conclude this trip with the fittingly titled, almost romantic “Duo”, evoking the wish to start all over again. So, if they “were instinctively trying to create a place where people want to go to, that felt comforting”, they’ve succeeded. “We feel that now, maybe more than ever, there is a need for such places”.

“Where You Wish You Were” will be released on January 27th on ACT Music. On vinyl, too!

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