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Album Review: Autumn Suite, Vol. 1
Chad Lawson
Cover image of the album Autumn Suite, Vol. 1 by Chad Lawson
Autumn Suite, Vol. 1
Chad Lawson
2010 / Hillset Records
36 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Autumn Suite, Vol. 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, Vol. 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 chadlawson.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.
November 13, 2010
More reviews of Chad Lawson albums
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