John Law: Deeper into the Music

Jakob Baekgaard By

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JL: Future plans? Well I'm going to be doing more trio and solo concerts and touring. Maybe a couple of more trio albums are in the pipeline. I'm going to be taking some time off this Autumn/Winter to write a whole load of new trio material that's in my mind. Hopefully about ten new compositions. Maybe more...

Outside the main jazz activities of mine, trio and solo work, I have a couple of plans more in the area of classical music. I would like to write a through-composed piece for orchestra. I've written a couple now, in response to being asked to submit something to the London Symphony Orchestra. Neither of my last submissions have actually been chosen and I'm working on something currently which I think will work really well, so hopefully will be chosen this time.

And there's another idea I'm planning: I want to do a project called Goldberg. I'm commissioning, once the funds are in place, an artist to do an animation, which will be about three or four minutes long and on a continuous loop. As a background to this I'm going to write a piece of electronic music based on the chord structure of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Sort of very subtle, unobtrusive ambient sounds. This will be a kind of installation. But then once or twice in the day I'll actually play the whole piece, live, probably behind a screen. A strange idea but I do play pieces from this work most mornings, as part of my warm-up routine. So I sort of conceived this idea along the way.

And later, ultimately, my plan is to actually get back more to freely improvised playing and instant composition. I really only see this period I'm in of writing lots of interesting (I hope) compositions and cute ballads for the trio and for my solo work, I see it as a learning process that will hopefully inform my free playing more. I'm hoping thus to emerge as a better, more melodic, free player. I'll never go back to doing only energy music and that sort of thing. But I hope to incorporate many aspects of free music as well as the tunes approach and then play totally openly, without preconceived ideas. And I mean trio as well as solo. I was really impressed with the last e.s.t. album, the way they played freely (and of course treated it a lot in post-production). Made me think I'd really like to do a more abstract trio recording myself, one day.

But lastly I have to say I just want to get better. I realized this only recently. I'm involved in lifelong learning, simply because it turns me on. Not because I want to get better. Not because I want to achieve this or that. I just simply like learning things. Of course it would be naive to not concede that, along the way, I do notice new things I've learnt. Without some sort of positive feedback it would be difficult to maintain this interest in learning. But I really do love it for its own sake. And while I'm earning just about enough, from playing/writing/a bit of teaching, so that I can actually sort of support my family, then I don't have the issue of having to justify my continuous focus on study.

So I'm going to carry on trying to learn. For example, in harmony, I've recently realized I've been using chords completely without thinking, and they're not sophisticated enough. My hands and fingers have just been automatically falling into those learnt patterns. So I've been relearning and trying to delve deeper into harmony. I want to make a proper study of some of the Ligeti Piano Etudes, particularly some of the later ones, from Books 2 and 3. Harmonically there's a lot of material there that fascinates me. I'd like to one day sit down and make a proper study of Brad Mehldau's remarkable solo album Live in Tokyo (Nonesuch, 2004), just to find out how the hell he actually does what he does.

These things. And more.

I just want to find out new things in music. Because I want to and it's inspiring.

Selected Discography

John Law, Congregation: The Art of Sound, Volume 4 (33 Jazz, 2009)

John Law, Chorale: The Art of Sound, Volume 3 (33 Jazz, 2008)
John Law, The Ghost in the Oak: The Art of Sound, Volume 2 (33 Jazz, 2008)
John Law, The Art of Sound, Volume 1 (33 Jazz, 2007)
John Law, Out Of The Darkness (Slam, 2006)
John Law, The Moment (Cornucopia, 2001)
John Law, Abacus (HatHut, 2001)
John Law, Strange Stories (Cornucopia, 2000)
John Law, Songs Without Words (Eos, 1998)
John Law, Chants (Cornucopia, 1998)
John Law, The Onliest—Pictures From a Monk Exhibition (Future Music, 1996)
John Law, Exploded on Impact (Slam, 1993)

Photo Credits:

Page 1, 8: Mel Day

Page 3: Bob Meyrick

Page 5: Mel Day

Page 7: Andy Webb

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