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Album Review: Bloom
Bill Laurance
Cover image of the album Bloom by Bill Laurance
Bill Laurance
2024 / ACT Records
47 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
I continue to be blown away by the way so many European musical artists are able to combine several music genres and approaches to create something new and original. Pianist/keyboardist/composer Bill Laurance's new album, Bloom, with The Untold Orchestra (a group of eighteen string players from Manchester) is a perfect example of this. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Laurance is one of the original members of the very eclectic and award-winning group, Snarky Puppy. Combining his classical training and sensibilities with jazz, pop grooves and powerful orchestral synchronicity, the nine original tracks on Bloom cover a very impressive range of emotions and moods. The concept for the album was largely inspired by the imagination and creativity of Laurance's child. Quoting Bill Laurance:

“Every decision we act upon can be traced back to our capacity to imagine, and the limits of what we can achieve are restricted only by our ability to dream, as such. My child’s ability to pull back the curtain of reality and create a fantasy world ignited possibilities of my own, and with Bloom I seek to transport the listener to those places, inspired throughout by the power of the natural world and our ever-growing dependence on it.”

Bloom opens with the title track, which begins with a very spacious and slightly mysterious string segment that would easily fit into a movie soundtrack. After the extended intro, the strings pick up the tempo and intensity before the piano enters into the dialogue. The last section of the piece is more improvised as the music takes wing and soars - a great opener! "Before the Sun" is quiet and relaxed and features Laurance on both the piano and keyboards. The music expresses the beauty and calm of the world as it awakens to the promise of a new day. "All At Once" is much more intense, due mostly to the agitated rhythms of the strings and piano. Bright and upbeat, "Right Where We Are" seems to express a sense of freedom and optimism - a favorite! "Strange Love" goes quite a bit darker, although it is still smooth and often tender - romantic, even! I really like this one, too! "Shots" could refer to several things, but from the intensity of the music, I'd guess it refers to gun shots and the frantic reaction to them - chaotic yet beautiful! Almost an antidote for the previous track, "Above All" is blissfully serene and graceful. "Lyra" is another favorite and radiates a wide variety of musical colors and tones. Much of the piece feels freely improvised on the piano and lead strings, creating a mood that is both comfortable and slightly edgy. The closing track, "The Right Time," conveys an interesting rhythmic energy from the strings while the piano is more sparing and melodic. As the piece progresses, the piano part becomes more complex and improvised - a great ending for a great album!

Bloom is available digitally from Apple/iTunes and streaming platforms including Spotify. It will be released as a CD and an LP on Amazon on May 3, 2024. More links will be added as they become available.
April 23, 2024
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