2011 / Hillset Records
Review by Michael Debbage
Two years ago Chad Lawson released his solo debut Set on a Hill which quickly placed him on the musical map. The title of Lawson’s full length sophomore effort The Piano is simple, straight to the point and unadorned. Needless to say the title mirrors Chad’s musical content focusing on his gorgeous soft, subtle, sensual touch that not only picks up where his stellar debut left off but has also raised his game. The Piano is very clear and strong evidence that Chad Lawson is already a major player in the solo piano circles.
While Lawson used the big league producer Will Ackerman on his debut, this time around Lawson self produced while seeking assistance from fellow pianist Joe Bongiorno to engineer the piano portions. With no disrespect to Ackerman, Lawson and Bongiorno do a wonderful job keeping the sound uncluttered and crystal clear allowing us as the listener to feel like we are getting our own private concert. While the album consists of ten tracks, nine of which are self-composed, Lawson surprisingly begins with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Preludium In C Major”. It is rhythmic and melodic with an almost cross pattern arrangement that brings to mind the wonderful arrangements that Michael Jones created with David Darling on the classic Amber album. In fact, Lawson touch is so unbelievable that at times you wonder if he is being accompanied by Darling on the cello, but it is all piano, all Lawson.
This is a magnificent start that just continues to roll song after incredible song as you gently merge into “Nocturne In A Minor”. This is immediately followed by the mesmerizing beauty “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” that will have you walking on air. Other super fine moments can be found on “Dance You Pretty” and “As Only Yesterday”. Added to that list is the very vulnerable and intimate “My Romance” that brings this breathtaking album to sweet conclusion. Meanwhile, between the above mentioned highlights are Lawson and his piano sharing almost equally impressive impressionistic moments that result in an album with utterly no filler.
There is absolutely no hint of a sophomore jinx here. In fact it is quite the opposite, as The Piano is so impressive in its impressionistic simplicities that it refuses to stand in the shadows of Lawson’s stellar debut Set on a Hill. If the music community were whispering about his debut, then The Piano will have them talking out loud with their indescribable praises.
February 19, 2012