There's something very satisfying about sitting down and listening to four talented jazz pros combining to provide a smooth and cohesive sound. It's a task that is far more difficult than it sounds, but the Piers Lawrence Quartet has nailed it on the group's new album, Stolen Moments, releasing March 1st on the Jazznet Media label.
Armed with a soulful guitar and sporting his signature beret, Piers Lawrence is a regular fixture on the New York jazz scene, and has a rich history that includes everything from Broadway to touring with Wilson Pickett. His current ties to the Harlem musical community have helped pave the way for matching up with the other members of the quartet, all of whom have their own impressive resumes.
Pianist Chuk Fowler is a veteran who lists Nat King Cole among his influences, and he's played with Billy Higgins and Hank Mobley. Bassist Jim Hankins is another seasoned pro who has worked with Lou Rawls, Wes Montgomery, and Sonny Stitt. And finally, drummer Sir Earl Grice has not only performed with Sonny Rollins, George Benson, and Stevie Wonder, but also lists acting credits among his accomplishments.
The album is a nice mix of eight tracks, three written by Lawrence and the others coming from a variety of composers, including Jaco Pastorius, Charlie Parker, and Sonny Rollins, whose "Pent-Up House" opens the album. It's a good choice because it shows how Lawrence's skillful guitar lead can ably substitute for Rollins' sax, a pattern that's followed throughout the album.
The group gives us a little bit more of a bop sound on Parker's "Donna Lee," with drummer Grice shining though, and something a touch more modern with Jaco's "Reza," but the album is mostly traditional jazz rather than cutting-edge stuff. One of my favorites was an old song given a new treatment, "Secret Love," with Lawrence and pianist Fowler playing nicely off each other.
Lawrence's own compositions are solid and polished. I especially enjoyed the Latin bounce of "Samba Christina," along with the soft ballad "Everytime," which gives Hankin some time to show his mastery of the upright bass.
I'm a traditionalist and I enjoyed this album a lot, but some jazz aficionados might feel that it doesn't take enough risks. I hope they'll give it a chance, because I think they'd find that it's well worth the listen.
Clips available at artist's website
1. Pent-Up House
2. Samba Christina
3. Stolen Moments
5. Donna Lee
7. Secret Love