Gilles Peterson’s shows on 6 music have always been a great way to discover old soul, jazz, funk and disco gems, and at the same time stay current on new hip hop, house and electronica. I’ve been listening to a fair bit of jazz lately, keen to learn more about the genre I probably (and maybe criminally) check for the least, and keen to discover modern acts as much as dig deep through the classics. The last modern act to blow my head off was probably Portico Quartet, who I saw play an amazing gig at the Manchester School of Music.
GP had a lot of good things to say about Jarrod Lawson on last Saturday’s show, and I could see why after just a few bars of ‘Gotta Keep’ – which has become my favourite track on Lawson’s self-titled debut LP. I’d been playing the album all week – his amazing voice and fantastic keys weaving together to create really hope-filled music, and then heard that Jarrod Lawson and his band were playing in Manchester at Band on the Wall as part of a short UK leg of the tour.
I don’t often stay with an album all the way through from start to finish, but this LP, amazingly Lawson’s first – grabs you from the beginning. The opening track ‘Music and it’s Magical Ways’ features Lawson’s voice introducing his band, The Good People, welcoming you along as he sets out to ‘change the world one song time’. This is a big statement, but the beautiful harmonies, conscious lyrics and brilliant musicianship weave together to make a kind of hammock for your mind, for your soul. Many have put Lawson’s music alongside the work of two artists he claims as key influences – Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and I agree, he certainly brings the same kind of healing and emotional intelligence. Many of the tracks, especially ‘He’s There’ and my personal favourite ‘Gotta Keep’, are prettyup-front in worshipping God, but not in a preachy, heavy way, such is the humility and encouragement in the lyrics and the abundant life in the music. Even people of no faith are talking about the vitality that resonates through this music, it’s that good.
Lawson‘s keys, backing band and vocalists were amazing enough, but having Farnell Newton blow the horn at the BotW gig was a massive bonus. That man can PLAY – no wonder he’s the go-to trumpet player for Jill Scott and Bootsy Collins. He’s a really friendly bloke as well – one of the bonuses at hearing an act play at a venue with such an open ethos (they were really kind in letting me take photos with a ‘proper’ camera without any kind of press pass – for the first 3 songs anyway!) is that you get to interact – Jarrod, Farnell and the rest of the band were really happy to talk with people before and after the show, and even went on to my friend Tolu’s jam session around the corner in Stevenson Square. I left just before all The Good People joined in the jam – gutted to have missed it but the video is pretty special! Sidenote – check Tolu’s outfit Pieces of a Man – they’re local, and top, so if you check for Manchester neo-soul, jazz and funk music, keep tabs on where they are next by giving them a follow
It was a bit of a shame that my favourite track of the album wasn’t on the set list, but they made up for it when, after a little coaxing from a man in the crowd, Lawson duetted with one of his backing singers for a cover of Hathaway’s ‘I love you more than you ever know’, which brought even more feeling to the night, and was pretty special for me, as Hathaway’s classic Live album has got me through a few soul-dip moments recently! A great night showcasing a great album. Listen out for more of this man and his Good People!