Today I'd like to showcase a brilliant record. It isn't brand new (though it might be to you) and to me it feels as such every time I hit play. Bill Laurance's "Swift" is a mixed bag of many things beautiful and epic. The landscapes he creates with his work on this album is quite deep and wide, while subtly hinting at bits and bobs of nostalgia from yesteryear. "Swift" is an expansive record that lives rooted firmly as a Jazz record, but with many adjacent musings at every twist and turn.
"Swift" (2015) the second in the succession of Laurance's releases was recorded with many of his fellow band-mates in the ensemble Snarky Puppy. Admittedly, I'm a big fan of Snarky Puppy -- a genre bending group of musicians that meld jazz, funk, soul, blues, electronic and beyond, in remarkable ways. Born out of the University of North Texas school of music, these musicians set out to create incredible music. Pushing the boundaries in our current industry climate of what is 'genre' consideration.
The tonal landscape of this record, as previously mentioned, is quite wide offering something for everyone. I'll detail a few of my favorite tracks from the album here. Wonderfully, much of the content of the record has professional footage, so please take a look and listen at the bottom of this post.
From the very Dave Brubeck-esque "Denmark Hill" to the electronic Air meets Giorgio Moroder "Mr. Elevator," this record is the kind of piece you can let run on the road, letting it open itself up at every ebb. The record opens with a beautiful and cinematic "Prologue: Fjords," it's almost as if the music is asking the listener to take the time to let it in; Relax, open your heart/open your mind. This cinematic treatment is a true-line on "Swift", allowing the listener to be taken somewhere else, somewhere beautiful and new. Fans of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros will feel right at home in the shade of those moments Laurance and company make. After the incredible drum outro of the opening track, "December In New York" slips right in giving the listener instant travel to the vintage movie "Love Story" vibes of a New York winter. You can really sense the cold snow and beauty of the city in this track. Laurance's agile and gorgeous piano playing is abundant in this standout piece. Songs like title track "Swift" and "U-Bahn" usher in the familiar groove and nimble musical musings Snarky Puppy are famous for. The cinematic landscape maintains the travel through each song for it's audience, guiding us right along every step of the way.
It's hard to not be taken away by these pieces. For me personally, I reach for musical works that do exactly that. I want to be swept away into my own worlds, and albums like "Swift" can help arrange that travel. It's part meditation, part appreciation. The journey, as always, is more important than the destination. Such as "Rush," a beautiful piano driven piece sitting somewhere between Brubeck or McCoy Tyner, floating on a break beat drum pattern that just keeps inching towards the moving pictures in your mind.
"Swift" closes with "The Isles," a pensive track with mostly solo piano and string accompaniment. A subtle lovely way to turn the last page of a book that's become like an old friend. "The Isles" holds a secret close to it's heart --- a hidden track! After roughly 5 minutes of silence, you are greeted by a vocoder melody that stings you right in your core. A choral moment of simplicity that folds back that cover in the purest and most lovely way, in the way that only Laurance and company can do --- with grace, beauty and nostalgia.