The fast rise of ultra soulful singer/pianist/composer Jarrod Lawson from Portland, Oregon has come to a new chapter last night at New Morning in Paris, his first visit to France. That’s where he started his 5-week European tour and that’s where he presented his amazing vocal and songwriting skills together with his imaginative piano playing.
The charming singer who got hooked on Stevie Wonder through his father’s record collection and who released my favorite Soul/Jazz album of 2014, started his pretty long, two-part set with the opening track of his album, “Music And Its Magical Way”. From the start it was clear that the emphasis was on the Good People, the name of his band with Chance Hayden on guitar, Christopher Friesen on bass, Joshua Corry on drums and his two superb background vocalists, Tahirah Memory and Molly Foote who gelled and clicked together like nothing else. Even short parts with just a word or a phrase had a tantalizing effect.
Jarrod included almost all of his songs from his debut album plus a couple of tracks from his brand-new 4-song EP, recorded at the BBC Studios and recently released on 180g vinyl as well (the sound on that is brilliant!). One of the outstanding facts about him except for the sensational vocal chops is his unique songwriting style, clearly out of the mid-70s Stevie Wonder book, but no cheap copy. Not at all. The thickness and sympathetic straightforwardness of “All That Surrounds”, the different layers in “Sleepwalkers”, or the Gospel-infused “Needed” are stand-out songs that seem to stay forever in your head.
Jarrod easily shifts from his deep soulful voice to higher registers and falsetto as if it’s the most natural thing to do. His upbringing in a Christian household is reflected in his lyrics (“Think About Why”), but he does not present himself as a preacher, but rather a reflective and eloquent story-teller and observer (“Don’t let your pride stand between the unequivocal and you believing a lie”).
He recently completed work on the debut album of his backing singer Tahirah Memory and showcased her on a beautiful, really beautiful duet love song (“All The Time”). Both sets had enough drama and suspension that especially the slower tunes like “Redemption” really cut through. He also included the song that he recorded with Farnell Newton three years ago on the trumpeter’s own album (“Everything Is Clear”, still a real show-stopper). Too bad that he used the Fender Rhodes on one track only. I could have had more of that! Also included was the infectious and uplifting “Gotta Keep” and a brandnew song called “Connected”. Jarrod told me that he would go right into the studio after this tour to record the next album.
The Paris audience didn’t want him to leave and so he did three encores in the end – not bad for a singer if you take into account that the city is having severe problems with air pollution. If you’re anywhere near, don’t miss his upcoming shows. (No air pollution reported so far). I can only highly recommend it:
4/10 Gateshead, International Jazz Festival
4/11 London, Jazz Café
4/12 London, Jazz Café
4/14 Cologne, Altes Pfandhaus
4/17 Rotterdam, Bird
4/18 Amsterdam, Northsea Jazz Club
4/20 Brussels, The Music Village
4/24 Munich, Unterfahrt
4/25 Tallinn, Jazzkaar
4/29 Berlin, A-Trane
4/30 Minden, JazzClub
5/03 Brighton, Old Market
5/07 Leeds, HiFi Club
5/08 Manchester, Band on the Wall
5/09 Minehead, Southport Weekender