Roan Kearsey-LawsonAlbum Reviews
144 Records 144CD003: 67.49 Review by Ron Simpson 2016
I’m not sure that Roan Kearsey-Lawson does himself any favours with the jazz public by naming this fascinating, inventive and totally accessible album Classical Conversations. The classical connection is there, of course, right from the opening track Blight of the Spanish Humble-Bee, with, inevitably, the Rimsky-Korsakov showpiece excerpted. Occasionally one of the gentler pieces may sound as if it would fit with Classic FM’s Smooth Classics. However, the range of influences is much wider than classical music. As a composer (all tracks are originals) Kearsey-Lawson has a great melodic gift, plus an affinity with the rhythms and sound patterns of many countries: on Rushing Mambo Concerto, richly melodic and progressing through many developments and various instrumental combinations, the composer points to ‘Jewish/Arabian, Russian feel and Cuban rhythm’ – and it’s a highly appealing mix.
In addition to the eclectic charm of Kearsey-Lawson’s compositions, the album’s other remarkable feature is that it is performed by a trio on 14 different instruments! Duncan Lamont Junior clocks up eight of those with supreme control, his clarinet tone an especially evocative part of Kearsey-Lawson’s soundscape. The composer ranges over the field of tuned percussion, drums and piano and Dominic Ashworth limits himself to guitar – and plays it beautifully! It’s a virtuoso performance all round – and what a pleasure to find the glorious sounds of marimba and bass clarinet in there with the vibes and saxes! RON SIMPSON Big Bear Music
Presence in Mind Album - Released February 2014 Back to Short Quotes
“Seven British players, eleven eventful tracks, adding up to a lot of absorbing jazz listening – yet with no lengthy solos. This is a debut studio selection of the compositions/arrangements of a busy and versatile musician, Roan Kearsey-Lawson, who is heard principally on vibes, but also marimba, piano and drums.
The album title indicates that all the themes have some kind of dedication. Splendid Blues is for Milt Jackson, and naturally has an MJQ feel to it, achieved admirably by the leader plus the keyboard of Dorian Ford, the bass of Larry Bartley and the drums of Dave Trigwell. The same sound is inevitable in Bach East, but here it is augmented by the flute playing of the son of great jazz reedman, Duncan Lamont Junior. This fine five-piece then delivers a beautiful melody, My Love For You, that calls for lyrics to be added. It probably has.
At 10:37, the longest track is Concerto D’Afro. Its stunning contents include changing tempos, cross-rhythms, Roan on marimba as well as supplying his best jazz vibes of the disc, some masterly Ford piano, and above all, the young Duncan with smooth bass clarinet and peaking on tenor to prove he’s as good as his dad. Substantial alto later on reinforces this fact.
The other two players emerge effectively elsewhere. On the folksy/stately Presence, Geoff Mason’s trombone has skilful richness. Ray Butcher brings his authority and style to Serendipity on trumpet, and to Fondness on flugel, both in uppish vein. Bearing the space factor in mind, I have to add that the majestic Lullaby of Love and the happy Brother’s Bounce are probably my favourites. But overall, it’s a total winner.” (Les Tomkins, The Jazz Rag, Spring 2014)
"Although this is Kearsey-Lawson's début album it nevertheless has a maturity about it that is often missing from some albums by longer established jazz names. Of course the presence of Lamont Jr. helps but even on the tracks where the flautist/saxist is absent the quality still shines through.
The opener, Splendid Blues, is reminiscent of early MJQ back in the days when they still knew how to swing (Bags Groove etc). Bach East is simply delightful with, as the title implies, a nod to JSB - the first great improviser. Lamont's flute, the icing on the cake here. More flute delicacy with My Love For You before the two movementConcerto D'Afro which purports to be a story of the history of jazz from the roots of Africa. Quite a challenge to accomplish this in two movements. However, if you simply treat it as a piece that features hypnotic rhythms and a contrasting swing section as well as the leader's marimba and Lamont's tenor and bass clarinet it works well.
Presence brings trombonist Mason aboard adding some nice tonal variations. Mason stays on deck for Serendipity joined by Butcher on trumpet and Lamont, this time on alto. It's a lovely tune over a familiar sounding sequence that would easily lend itself to a lyricist. The short solo bursts are effective.
Empathy has RKL on piano, Lamont on flute, with bass and drums. It's well named - the Empathy is mutually displayed. On Fondness, RKL edges Trigwell off the drumstool and Lamont (alto) and Butcher (flugel) have their shining hour (actually 4 min 21 secs). Oh yes, and our man is no mug behind the kit!
Saved, a jazz waltz dedicated to RKL's stepfather again has Lamont fluting. Lullaby of Love an emotional quartet outpouring brings us to Brother's Bounce and a jolly tune that would surely have cracked a smile on the faces of Messrs Lewis, Jackson, Heath and Kay (AKA MJQ).
If I've concentrated on RKL and Lamont too much I deserve a slap on the wrist as Dorian Ford, Bartley and Trigwell all contribute to making this a record that deserves to be heard by the wider jazz public - not easy for a self-released CD."
Lance Liddle, Be Bop Spoken Here Blogspot, 20th February 2014.
A while ago we introduced Roan Kearsey – Lawson in one of our Taster articles. Roan has now released his debut album, Presence In Mind, an enjoyable, satisfying, accessible album with straight-ahead relaxing jazz that will appeal to many people.
The album features Roan’s Quintet with Roan (vibraphone, Marimba, drums and piano), Duncan Lamont Jr. (flute, alto and tenor sax, and bass clarinet), Dorian Ford (piano and electric piano), Larry Bartley (double bass) and Dave Trigwell (drums). Ray Butcher (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Geoff Mason (trombone) guest on some of the tracks.
All of the tracks are compositions by Roan who shows he has a penchant for writing good, lyrical music and arranging it to a variety of styles. The album doesn’t pretend to push any jazz envelopes and the majority of the music is ballad-based, although it opens at a good lick withSplendid Blues. Fondness at track 8 again picks up the pace with Latin rhythms and the closing track, Brother’s Bounce, does just what it says on the tin.
This is a democratic album with everyone taking a fair share of the solos, and there are times when I would have liked to hear some extended a bit more. One example is Ray Butcher’s excellent playing on Fondness which for me ended far too soon.
Bach East is an interesting track in 3/4 time influenced as you would expect by the classical composer with some haunting flute from Duncan Lamont Jr. and Empathy is a nice ballad featuring Roan on piano,
The concept behind the album is one where Roan has written each piece with ‘something in mind’. Serendipity which features the whole band with Ray and Geoff was written with ‘fun in mind’. It captures the scene well where Roan imagines a family going off to the park, and after getting a little too giddy, at the end of the track quietly backing out of the park as if no one noticed what they got up to!
Saved was written with ‘step father in mind’, where Roan wanted to contrast dark times with the subsequent saving nature of his step father. Again the track captures the emotions well.
The one track that doesn’t work for me is extended Concerto D’Afro. Starting with the Marimba and African inspired Cuban rhythms, the bass clarinet comes in with North African sounds. For me, this section is too long. The track picks up when Roan on vibes and Duncan on tenor sax bring in United States influences before returning back to the sounds of African roots.
Roan Kearsey-Lawson is a talented multi- instrumentalist and composer from Kent who taught himself to play vibes and who has three University degrees in Music and Social Science, Mysticism and Religious Experience and Systematic Theology. He has played with many jazz musicians including Tony Coe, Don Rendell, Scott Hamilton and Darius Brubeck.
Ian Maund, Sandy Brown Jazz, 1st March 2014