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John Law's Congregation

Review by Darren Harper

6th May 2020

John Law has always managed to find a careful balance between the classical and the jazz worlds, with his classical background and dexterity evident in most of what he produces. We’ve also seen his releases swing sharply (and pleasingly) from the boundaries of both genres (just look at his “Re-Creations” releases).


However, with his 2020 “John Law’s Congregation” release, Configuration, Law has found yet another boundary to push or, at least, push further. It’s, largely, a very different sound to what some might expect from him and, personally, I really like it.


The album comes out like a bullet from a gun with the opening track, "The Kiss". We are quickly hit with a simple and bold riff that drives along with such energy, giving an immediate and real sense of urgency. The message seems clear; “buckle up, we’ve got something for you”.


But as great as the opening may be, it doesn’t really prepare us for the twist in the tale. When “And Them” starts, as the second track, you suddenly realise you’re in for something quite different. Law has certainly experimented with electronics before, but this is new. This feels like an arrival. The track has an almost entirely Nu-Jazz feel to it, which was a little unexpected and makes you sit up and pay attention. Yet, even with a new sound, Law still manages the trademark classical-tinged runs, that offer reassurance that you did, in fact, pick up the right album.


The album is well crafted, flows well and is definitely best enjoyed in order. After the title track, "Configuration", has hit us with some really full-sounding Sax and lifted us up with a frantic finalé, "Scandinavian Lullaby" has you floating back down again with pure tranquility.


With 11 tracks over 70 minutes, I could go on far too long discussing every one in detail, but I would like to at least give a nod to Jazzshh (track 6) and Complex City (track 9). Real highlights for me.


The album, as a whole, certainly isn’t overly electronic, but probably more than any of Law’s previous releases and, where it does feature, it’s used to excellent effect. I would love to see him push even further in this direction on future albums.


All being well, Law will tour the album later in the year with rest of the Congregation, Ashley John Long, Dave Smith and James Mainwaring and I, for one, will be seeking them out.


Configuration by John Law’s Congregation was released 1st May 2020 on Ubuntu Music.

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