Jarrod Lawson ‘Jarrod Lawson’ (Dome) 4/5

jarrod-lawsonUS vocalist Jarrod Lawson made musical airwaves last year when this was first released and combines the jazzy sophistication of Donny Hathaway’s pioneering work with the inventive soulfulness of early 1970s Stevie Wonder. The cover graphics are straight out of a Prince release, but that is where that comparison ends and Lawson is very much his own man with a tight band sound whose elasticity means that they can soul, jazz or Latin grooves and sometimes a combination of the three. This writer particularly likes the use of Earth, Wind and Fire style background harmonies as on the opener, ‘Music and its magical way’. A downtempo groove and some George Duke-ish keyboard riffs feature prominently on ‘All that surrounds’. Possibly the favourite number on the album is ‘Sleepwalkers’ with a lovely piano vamp and a fantastic combining of brass and flute while Lawson contributes wordless vocals and the pianist lays down some Herbie Hancock-influenced licks. In general, there is a storytelling quality to Jarrod Lawson’s music that marks him out from the rest and none of the clichés that abound with younger soul singers. More recently, a brief EP of live performance has surfaced and this coincided with a select number of UK dates. This is an outstanding solo debut album from a musician who has a clear grasp of the historical legacy of black music and a vision of where he is going next. One singer to watch in the forthcoming years.

Tim Stenhouse