Bill Laurance

Venue: Union Chapel
Towns: London
Dates: 23/5/15

In recent years, the Neo Funk band Snarky Puppy have risen to an impressive level of prominence in the music world. Bill Laurance is one of a few keyboard players that play in this tribe of musicians and is quickly becoming quite a name in his own right. After the release of his debut solo album, "Flint", last year, Laurance started to pick up a lot of attention. His latest release is the album, "Swift".

As people started flooding into the beautiful room that the Union Chapel boasts as a venue for live music, they quickly noticed the set up on the stage. An array of percussion, basses, amplifiers, music stands and not forgetting the bodacious number of keyboards occupying centre stage. As the lights dimmed and Bill Laurance walked onto the stage holding his cup of tea I got a sense that the evening would be completely laid back so as to give the audience the biggest possible opportunity to enjoy the work happening on stage. As soon as he got on the stage, he then disappeared again to the back and behind his keyboards. As I started to wonder what was going on, the magnificent and full-bodied sound of the Union Chapel's church organ began to sing. What started as an improvisation merged into, "Chia", a track from his first album. Later on in the first set the full band version of Chia was played. When I say full band I mean Snarky Puppy's Robert "Sput" Searight on Drums and Michael League on Bass and the Metropole Orchestra's Vera Van Der Bie on Violin, Isabella Petersen on Viola, Anna Tangberg on Cello and Katie Christie on French Horn.

I personally really enjoyed numbers with just Laurance, League and Searight and just Laurance and the strings and horn. When stripped back to a piano trio, the chemistry and rapport between the three Snarky Puppy musicians shone out. "Denmark Hill", from the latest release is what the ensemble opened the second half with and it has more of a jazz feel about it and less of funk and orchestral vibe. On the other hand, "The Isles", which is also from Laurance's last album, is completely different. This has an almost neo classical feel about it with its rippling piano solo and string accompaniment. This is not to say that the two entities didn't work well as one unit because they most certainly did. When playing as a larger ensemble the music was driven up to a high octane climax that got audience members dancing one minute and wide eyed with enchantment the next.

If I haven't got the message across yet, this was an exceptional night of music! If this act comes to a venue near you then I suggest you see it. If not, then the evening at the Union Chapel was filmed and will be released soon I believe. Getting a copy once its released may be a good compromise.

Matt Tighe

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