Chad Lawson’s background is fascinating. After having studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and toured as well as recorded with jazz legends (including Babik Reinhardt) and Lawson’s own trio, the American musician started his solo career in 2009, with Set on a Hill; focusing on the art of composing through the ears of the improviser. After numerous successful releases, including many centered around the art of variation (The Chopin Variations in 2014, then Bach Interpreted in 2016, and The Lore Variations in 2016-17) and a venture in the world of looping music (with re:piano in 2018), the pianist returns to a simpler musical world and delivers contemporary romanticism with Stay, his latest release.
“Stay”, that opens the EP appears to be a musical lament; it is built on a few musical ideas that seem to want to develop over and over without ever really succeeding, as if Lawson was trying to say something, but could not find the write words — or notes. “One Day You Finally Knew”, is full of romanticism, a sentiment developed throughout Stay. Lawson’s previous works on Chopin’s seem to have left some of the blueprints of the Polish composer in the pianist creative DNA. It also reflects in “Across the Distance” and the enchanting piano pattern that butterflies around the melody; the second focus of Stay. One can almost hear a cello countermelody until the pattern is broken into individual cells that drift away. “Rain”, is to me the peak of Lawson’s romanticism — an almost Schubertian treatment to melody and wonderful harmonic surprises that are disguised by the apparent simplicity of the piece. Finally, “She Dreams of Time” is a little musical tale, full of optimism and lightness; a stark contrast to the opening piece.
Lawson’s previous works — a lot more centered on arranging existing material — have influenced the music of Stay, and it results in a strong emphasis on the melody and its control, and a research for lyricism over technical or theoretical aspects. However, the element of spontaneity is omnipresent in the composer’s works, and Stay is probably the most evident illustrations of all. Several listens to the EP reveal each time a new musical element.
I was lucky enough to exchange with Lawson during the writing of the review, and what stroke me the most is the similarities between the man and his music; Kind. Simple. Authentic. Pure. And I think Chad agrees with me.