Born in Saudi Arabia, now living in London, guitarist Ant Law has steadily been making a name for himself over recent years, with his previous albums (Life I know, 2018 on Edition Records, Zero Sum World, 2015 on Whirlwind Records, and Entanglement, 2013 on 33Jazz) receiving very favourable reviews along the way. Law also plays in Tim Garland’s band with Jason Rebello and Asaf Sirkis, featuring on the albums Songs to the North Sky, Return to the Fire, and ONE. Tim Garland makes an appearance here on two of the tracks, with saxophonist /clarinettist Michael Chillingworth also appearing on two tracks, Adam Kovacs on percussion on two tracks, and the core band of Law on guitars, Ivo Neame on piano, Tom Farmer on acoustic bass, and James Maddren on drums.
As one might expect from such a strong line-up of musicians, there’s a distinct tightness to the band’s playing, adding a clear connectedness and warm, intuitive feel to the music being performed. The eleven original compositions (one of these co-written) have an emphasis on warmth, in contrast to Law’s previous release “Life I Know” which was somewhat darker in mood. Whilst some of the tunes strike a chord with me on first listen, it is repeated plays that bears fruit with Law’s music, his style of writing benefitting from hidden depths that don’t always reveal themselves straight away.
One thing of which there’s no doubt whatsoever is that Ant Law is an exceptionally gifted guitarist. Technically brilliant, he brings a wealth of skill and ability to the pieces recorded here. For me, some of his compositions work better than others, with the occasional tune just not quite hitting the sweet spot – for whatever reason – whether that be a feeling that the music could be more emotive, or whether it’s the feeling that I’m just not connecting with the flow and atmosphere in the time and space I’m listening to it… I’m not one to ‘analyse’ the whys and wherefores too much. So let’s focus on the plus sides, and there are plenty of them with some real gems to be heard on this album.
The musicianship throughout this recording is exceptional. Ivo Neame, in particular, is on top form, adding touches of inspiration with his wonderful playing. The understanding between all of the musicians is clearly evident, with Tim Garland and Michael Chillingworth both supplying masterful contributions to the session. I love how the slightly melancholic feel at the beginning of “Swan Song” opens out into a joyous celebration. One of the most original pieces “Her Majesty” is a real pleasure to listen to, with its intriguing flights of fancy creating a lovely atmosphere. The uplifting title track takes the listener on an adventurous journey, with solos from both Law and Garland really swinging with a deep resonating depth. “Bridges” benefits from a vibrant groove that once you’re in on, you’re hooked. And the catchy, compelling “Harvest” is one of those tunes that offers sunshine on a rainy day.
“The Sleeper Wakes” is a solid, enjoyable album from Ant Law. I can’t help feeling that these set of tunes would come alive in a live setting… but then that’s something that we all crave right now. Maybe when the ‘new normal’ of life gets back to a ‘better normal’ for artists and musicians, we’ll be able to enjoy hearing Law and band stoke the fire that little bit more with their musical prowess.
Ant Law ‘Zero Sum World’ CD (Whirlwind) 3/5