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Interviews

John Law: Deeper into the Music

By Published: November 4, 2009
I play the piano. That's quite an old instrument, isn't it? I use harmonies.

I'll leave it up to other people to use labels.

AAJ: You have worked in many different constellations, both as a sideman and as a leader. Is there anyone in particular who has influenced your own playing and, if so, in what way?

JL: Not sure if you mean musicians I have played with who have influenced me or just generally pianists or instrumentalists I've listened to...

Regarding the latter I have a policy of never saying which pianists I consider my main influences. Firstly I sort of think it's probably quite obvious, mostly. Secondly, I like to think that's your job... I'm not going to make it easier for you! I enjoy seeing writers name influences just from what they hear, from examples like the very first write up I had (in the Wire Magazine) where the guy said I was obviously influenced by a certain pianist whom I hadn't actually ever heard up to that point (!) right up to where they actually get it spot on.

This policy came about many years ago, with the very first CD I was on, Syzygy (Leo, 1990), by Jon Lloyd

Jon Lloyd
b.1958
. Every review raved about my playing. Except one. That was a French guy whom I sent the CD to, with a letter saying something like I didn't think I played that well on it but hoped he liked it sort of thing. The result was he said, in his review that I sounded, on the CD, ill at ease. I was sure that was because of what I'd said! I decided, from then on, never to do critics' homework for them.

So all I say is I've listened to everybody.

But I will say this about my trio. I'm trying to do something very wide-ranging. The fact is I really like lots of different music and different current piano trios. And I would say that, apart from some very obvious pianists whose influence anyone can hear in my playing (like I said, I won't name them!) there are three trios that are very, very different from each other that have all influenced my composing for the Art of Sound trio. They're what I would call my Holy Trinity of piano trio stylists. In no particular order: Esbjorn Svensson

Esbjorn Svensson
Esbjorn Svensson
1964 - 2008
piano
Trio, Tord Gustavsen
Tord Gustavsen
Tord Gustavsen
b.1970
piano
and The Bad Plus
The Bad Plus
The Bad Plus

band/orchestra
. They all sound so different. And they hardly overlap in territory at all. Yet I like them all. Work that one out; for me, these three seem to cover most, if not all, of the areas I'm interested in.



People I've played with who have influenced me forever: well firstly the two guys in my trio, Sam Burgess and Asaf Sirkis, are a constant source of inspiration. Really, when I play with them I just hope, in my heart, to play to my satisfaction so that I feel worthy enough to be on the same bandstand as them. That's how high I rate them.

John LawOther than them I would have to say that the following five musicians I've worked with have left an indelible imprint on my sound-world: Evan Parker, Barry Guy

Barry Guy
Barry Guy
b.1947
bass
, Tim Garland
Tim Garland
Tim Garland
b.1966
saxophone
, Jason Rebello
Jason Rebello
Jason Rebello
b.1969
piano
and Jon Lloyd.

And, if this isn't backtracking on my saying I wouldn't tell you all my influences, I listen absolutely loads to the new generation in the UK. Younger people give you such a buzz. There are things they do that older, supposed-to-be-wiser people just haven't got. The main guys for me are these pianist/composers: Tom Cawley

Tom Cawley
Tom Cawley
b.1975
piano
, Gwilym Simcock
Gwilym Simcock
Gwilym Simcock
b.1981
piano
and Robert Mitchell
Robert Mitchell
Robert Mitchell
b.1971
keyboard
.

AAJ: So how do you judge the climate of jazz to be in Great Britain at the moment? And how do you see the relationship between the European and American jazz tradition?

JL: The situation here in the UK is that jazz education has reached, as far as I can tell (and I live now out of London, in the South West of England, where I teach privately, but I have some knowledge of what is going on in the main colleges and universities) an unbelievably high level. With the result that there are, every year, some quite extraordinary young musicians coming out of the colleges. Whether there's work for them all I don't know. I somehow doubt it. But they're unbelievably well equipped. By that I mean they play their instruments wonderfully well (of course), they can all read, they can play in different tempos and meters, they swap time signatures with no problem, they have a thorough knowledge of harmony. Most importantly, they seem to have a great feel and groove.



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