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Autumn Suite, Vol 1 Reviewed

The ever “don’t stop until you drop and even then there’s still so much you can do” Kathy Parsons of has reviewed Autumn Suite, Vol 1 (Troy Conn – Guitar & Chad Lawson – Piano). You can read the review below OR feel free to fancy your fingers to <—-

Details of said recording will be appearing in the coming days. In the midst of a newborn at our home (healthy baby boy) we’re also closing on a house in a matter of days. I mean, if one is to go completely mad, why not do it all at once…right? Stay tuned. For the behind the scenes, not for the madness. Well.

Autumn Suite, Volume 1 

Chad Lawson
2010 / Hillset Records
36.3 minutes

Autumn Suite, Volume 1 is the second in a series of improvisational duet albums from pianist Chad Lawson. This time, Lawson teamed up with guitarist Troy Conn. The EP is divided into three tracks that range from just under eight minutes to almost eighteen, and each is titled “Autumn Suite I II or III.” On their page on CD Baby, it states that they “steal the playbook from Evil Knievel and take every risk they could come across.” It would be fun to have more information about the process, but the two artists let the music speak for itself. I have to give Chad Lawson a lot of credit for not allowing himself to get too comfortable with the success of his award-winning “Set On a Hill,” which was more composed and melodic. Both Summer Suite and Autumn Suite are much edgier and more experimental, taking a chances and being in the moment with the music.

I LOVE “Autumn Suite I,” which begins with a Spanish/classical guitar-sounding intro by Troy Conn. He ends with a somewhat mysterious twist that Lawson picks up with a series of beautiful rolling broken chords on the piano. Lawson suggests a melody that continues in a Spanish style, and Conn develops it as Lawson accompanies him with a flowing piano. The interplay is achingly beautiful, and it’s simply amazing that this piece is an improvisation. “Autumn Suite II” begins with the piano, softly setting the tone and then introducing a single note pattern that the guitar picks up on. Lawson continues to improvise to this steady repeating note/rhythm. The pattern evolves into a repeated chord that both artists riff on, sometimes only varying the dynamics. As this very experimental piece goes along, the developmental changes are subtle and may be too repetitive for some ears. About 12 1/2 minutes into the piece, there is a muffled dialog in the background, but I can’t understand any of the words. Shortly after that, Lawson plays a series of slow chords and goes into a different direction with the piece as it becomes more rhythmic and upbeat, ending with slow chords as it fades out. “Autumn Suite III” begins with slow chords that create a very subdued mood. The first half of the improvisation continues in a gentle, soft-spoken style that is elegant and graceful. About halfway into the piece, Lawson injects a livelier beat with rolling chords as Conn picks out a melody on electric guitar. During the final minute, Lawson returns to his slow, lovely chords and fades out.

Autumn Suite, Volume 1 is a fascinating study of the creative dynamics between two artists as well as the amazing musicality that can result from this sort of collaboration. It is available from, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

Kathy Parsons



A Goldfish Named George

This is the new design by the amazing artist Joannie Wu for my new “A Goldfish Named George” t-shirt/sticker design. I’d love to have your feedback!

Summer Suite, Vol 1

It’s finally here. Summer. The season of lemonade, sunburns, bicycles, kiddie-pools, hot dogs and my favorite; ice cream. Oh how I love the ice cream. Häagen-Dazs has this flavor called Caramel Cone that I literally will run somebody over for. I’m not kidding, seriously. I will not hesitate. If it’s the last one, I’ll pull a Karate-Kid and sweep the leg. Buy it, and then ask for my mailing address. This will PROBABLY be the only time I’d make it public to a complete stranger. So good. So good. Here is the link again Yum.

Where was I? Oh yes, Summer. So, as I have mentioned earlier I have had this idea going through my head of an album consisting only of a piano and percussion. I know, it’s odd. I haven’t heard anything like it before either and I didn’t know if it would actually work. But, I thought I would at least give it some thought. In my close proximity lives a percussionist by the name of Jim Brock. His resume is only trumped by his beautiful spirit and ease of smile. To say he’s an artist of the percussion is a very grave understatement. I knew that if I wanted to execute this album idea, it had to be someone of Jim’s caliber. Someone that would think like Jim in a sense of allowing more space than noise. Of listening instead of speaking incoherently. Someone like Jim who would rather create a beautiful bed of sound rather than wait for those 2 or 3 seconds to through in a “lick” if you will. As you’ve probably already guessed, I stopped looking for someone like Jim, I humbly called and just asked.

We met on my birthday (March 26….I like ice cream, review previous paragraph if you need ideas) with neither of us knowing what to expect. We hadn’t rehearsed, hadn’t even talked about what we would do. I walked in feeling a wee bit of “oh crap-ness” what am I doing wasting everyone’s time, being that I hadn’t even written anything specifically for the occasion. Jim set up his entourage of noise makers while I sat at the piano and we just looked at each other. “Well” we both said without a word “now what?”.

What proceeded to take place is something that I thought could have happened, if two minds were of the same thought. And it did. I like space in my music, Jim likes space. I’d rather listen than talk (ask anyone who knows me and they’ll agree wholeheartedly). I played through a melody or two and then we decided let’s at least get something on tape (digitally speaking) and just go from there. We started with what are now tracks 2-10 on the EP. It starts with Jim creating sounds of the ocean with occasion birds (if you will) coming sparsely into the background. All percussion, all piano, nothing else. I then proceed to play exactly what in my mind was a release. A complete departure from Set on a Hill.

Before the recording, the only verbiage I gave to Jim was “Celebration”. Set on a Hill was recorded in a time of great struggle and hardship. That album sounds that way because it is exactly what I was dealing with then. With Summer Suite, Vol 1, it was time to rejoice, to celebrate new life. Not only in my life but also in knowing that my wife and I were (are) expecting our first child. This was a whole new chapter and I wanted to emulate such exuberance. If you notice, there are moments where you hear Jim clapping throughout the piece. Afterward, Jim told me the claps were that of rejoicing. He totally got it. I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

So, here it is. Officially released today, June 21st the first day of Summer. I hope you enjoy it. It’s the first of a series that I intend to do, each volume being with a different artist, or perhaps just by myself at the black and whites. I’ll post the links below where it can be found. It’s only $3.99 as a download, or $5 for the actual disc. Stickers and t-shirts coming soon (if interest continues).

As always, thanks for reading. God bless.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Just in time for the holiday season, Summit Records has released a single by the Chad Lawson Trio.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is the first thing from the trio since 2004. They’ve each been working on so many other things, however it was time for them to come together and do what they love…play.

Here is the link for iTunes. I hope you enjoy, it is classic CLT.

The Day It All Went Right

Whisperings Radio

Whisperings Radio

July 1st, 2009. To me, this was the day everything went right.  I awake at 6:45 this morning to the alarm on my blackberry (I know, it’s a CrackBerry.  I’m an addict to technology).  Laying in bed, trying to come to, I generally scroll through the emails, tweets & then if I’m really, REALLY procrastinating, I’ll check out the ole Facebook too.

Much to my surprise, my amazement, my astonishment! an email saying that I had been selected as part of the incredible roster of pianist on Whisperings Solo Piano Radio.  David Lanz, David Nevue, Wayne Gratz, I mean C’MON! And THEN, AND THEN I get notice that my new album Set on a Hill was nominated for album of the year!! WHAT! This is before my feet have even hit the floor! And it’s a probably good thing because I would have had to promptly sit down after reading that!

I then proceed with my morning run (with the pooch, Golden Retriever) and then head to a recording session to play on a GREAT singer/songwriter’s new album Jeremy Current.  The guy is killin’! His voice is JUST incredible.  Sitting next to him on the sofa and listening to him, it was very surreal.  No mic, no fancy tricks, nothing.  Just raw voice.  The session goes GREAT (he’s a great guy to work with, do keep your eye out for him in the following months).

And THEN as we’re wrapping the session, I get an email (thank you Mr. Blackberry) from a music supervisor friend of mine at a large, large movie company in a disclosed location.  He needed a loose ‘Bill Evans sound-alike’ of Round Midnight.  A jazz standard.  But needed it to be kind of like Bill Evans, except just kinda dirty, gritty, not really pretty.  And he needed it NOW! I RUSHED over to the piano as the engineer was pulling up a new session and recorded this first take on the fly.  Only because he needed it so quick.

At the upright piano.  This was the first take, the ONLY take.  Honestly, from the moment I got the email to the moment HE got my email back, was probably 7 minutes flat. Give or take half a second on either side you prefer. It was just a blast to try to be the first one that responded out of the other 30 that got the email.  There’s mistakes, I wasn’t trying to be perfect.  A cross of Bill & Monk to a degree.  Lord knows I would never try to imitate them.  They’re masters.  But, this is what came out.  So, why not share it!?! –> Round Midnight <–Click here if you want to hear it.  I mean, you don’t HAVE to if you don’t WANT to. No idea if it’ll ever be used.  It really matters not.  I just had a blast with the quick experience.

And then (finally) the house that my wife & I have wanted to rent didn’t want our dog (a big ole mean Golden Retriever.  We all know how vicious those dogs are! Lol).  So, I made one more pley and they AGREED! C’MON! I was just grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I had been blessed with that day.  It’s like God was saying “you know, I love you and today is going to be your day.  Even though I made it.” and He did.  God just blessed me so richly today it was amazing.  I just had to share it. Tomorrow……who knows.  I think I’ll go to bed early just to see!


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5 Dream Gigs

On tour w/Julio Iglesias

On tour w/Julio Iglesias

Every musician/artist has their own mindset of what they would like to be doing or perhaps where they would like to be.  For some, it happens right outta the womb.  Maybe their parents were really known in the music industry and it was simply inherited.  Or, there are those who struggle their entire life and finally get there break say…around 5o.  It wasn’t until Sting was 30 before receiving his first Grammy.  Prior to that, he was a school teacher but always knew music was his heart.

I’ve loved every moment of my piano trio experiences.  Al & Zack are absolutely the greatest musicians and even more so friends.  Plus, the experience of recording a solo piano album with Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen is something I’ll never forget and hope to do again very soon.  And of course, performing behind Julio Iglesias in front of thousands and thousands of people was a highlight to experience.

Sometimes, it’s not about carrying your own name or seeing yourself in the spotlights.  The simple reward is to sit on the stage with a group and just share each one’s talent.  So, in doing so here is my list of my top five dream gigs.  Gigs that I would truly love to sit on the stage and play with.  Where each individual brings their one part to make a whole.  So, if you know anyone 😉 …….

1. James Taylor – I know, I know.  Kind of odd, I know.  In high school a friend turned me onto his music and I knew that was the first gig I ever really wanted.  I even told him that once.  I was taking a class from Livingston Taylor and James walks in one day.  “I’m going to play with you some day.” I told him.  This was when the legendary Don Grolnick was still alive and playing with him.  So, my chances weren’t the best at the time (to say the least).  He smiled, nodded his head and said what any professional has probably said a million times over “I’m looking forward to it.” A very kind, respectful way of saying “uh……who are you?”. Lol.  I respect that.

2. Peter Gabriel – Really? Really? Do I NEED to explain why? Go do your homework!

3. Alison Krauss – I was first hooked on Alison from love at first note.  Everytime You Say Goodbye (1992) was the album.  Her voice haunting, chilling, plus she is  ridiculous on the fiddle (country for violin).  As with all of these artist that I’m mentioning, it’s all about one thing.  The song.  Not the art of the virtuoso, or the art of entertainment, but the most.  A good song, is a good song.  And Alison, has always been one to craft a good song.  Regardless if she inked it or not.  What I would give to play on stage with her.

4. Van Morrison – Everyone likes Van Morrison.  I mean, c’mon it’s Van Morrison.  I’ve always liked him, at an arms reach.  However I’ve never been enthralled with the guy.  Great talent, amazing writer.  But it wasn’t until I saw a rebroadcast of his performance on Austin City Limits that made me say “Wow, that would be so much fun.” Didn’t dance, didn’t have to be dramatic, just closed his eyes and owned the room.  His band was great and everyone stayed exactly where they needed to, together and in the pocket.  No one out shined the other, and no one really cared if they did or didn’t.  Again, it was about the music.  The foundation of a really good song.  His rendition of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” gave me chills. The show aired November 11th, 2006 if you wanna try to find it on youtube or something.

5. Michael Jackson – In light of his recent passing, I know that it sounds like I’m jumping on the wagon.  But the fact of the matter is, I’ve been on the Jackson train for a long time.  So, nay I say to you!!  I’ll never forget the night when HBO broadcasted Live from Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.  It was 1992.  I was at Ricky Rodriquez’s house.  Everyone else seemed to be outside hanging out, and I couldn’t pull myself away from what I was watching.  It was spectacular!  With the design of the stage, the musicians were pretty much in the back so they were relatively out of view.  Giving the full stage to Michael, his dancers and most importantly the spotlight on energy.  Everything was so “on”.  Each note, each movement, it was like watching a Russian ballet almost.  Without the pink dancing slippers.  I was later reading an article in Keyboard magazing at the time with his keyboardist(s) and I just remember “They must be some bada** players” And from that point on, I became a fan. Not as much of him as a person, but as a musician.  I didn’t necessarily want to have the gig with Michael because it was Michael, but because his band was so ridiculous, so above the par.  They were the creme, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be.  It was more of a dream to perform at that level in my mind, instead of just being a musician in some band of a unique talent.  We’ll miss him.  The the impact that he placed on everyone has been evident of the celebration of his music.  I wonder what his band is up to now?

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My Top 5 for May

So here are the top 5 of what I’m listening to this month, the merry month of May.  Shoot me an email & let me know what you think.  OR, your favorite five of the month.  I always love finding new music.

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

I’ve been a fan of Sigur Rós for a long time. Every new album continues to show what an amazing ‘group’ they are.  Track 7, I could literally listen to 1,000 times.

The Bad Plus - Prog

The Bad Plus - Prog

This is actually the only Bad Plus album that I have ever owned. I’ve always known they were a ground breaking band, not to mention just stupid crazy good musicians.  I didn’t want to be influenced by their sound (so unique) while I was writing for the trio.  But with this album, I just can’t seem to put it down.  Some really amazing playing!!

Cleveland Quartet - Beethoven String Quartets Opus 18 Numbers 1,2,3

Cleveland Quartet - Beethoven String Quartets Opus 18 Numbers 1,2,3

I love Beethoven. His harmonic structure has always been so inspiring. I found this album at the local library and have just fallen in love with it. I find that listening to four part harmonies is just mesmerizing in how each voice can create such harmonies mastery (when done right, of course).

Joshua Redman - Compass

Joshua Redman - Compass

Whenever I want to write, I listen to 2 things. Classical & Joshua Redman. I can’t put a finger on the latter but I also become so centered in writing after focusing on Joshua’s albums. He breaks the mold by having 2 drummers & 2 bass players on many tracks. Brilliant!

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Man I love this album! I know it’s been out for a while. So what!? I wore the previous MM album out, and when this when came out it hasn’t left either the iPod or the disc changer. So raw and just full of energy. I could probably listen to Dashboard a million times over!

Well, there ya have it.  My top 5 of what I am listening to for May.  I’d be curious to hear what you think. Not to mention, I’m ALWAYS open to suggestions to new music.

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