The writing is bold and full of interest, and the melodic sensibility to his music that he has been much lauded for remains very much intact.

Ubuntu Music UB0158

Simon Lasky – piano, keyboards, composer; Ona K –vocals; James Suggs & Shanti Jayasinha – trumpet; Paul Booth & Jack Wilkins – tenor saxophone; Sam Mayne & Aaron West – alto saxophone; Elias Tona – electric bass; Alejandro Arenas – upright bass; Peter Mongaya – guitars; Jonathan Thomas – drums and special guest Tim Garland – soprano sax

Recorded June 14th & July 7th at Cleartrack Studios in Cleartwater, FL with additional horns recorded at Session Corner in England

Pianist, composer and arranger Simon Lasky made quite an impression with his debut album Story Inside for 33Jazz in 2015 and followed this up with another fine recording three years later with About the Moment. Progress seemed to be rapid with the plaudits coming thick and fast, but since then Lasky has kept up waiting six years for the next chapter in the story.

In the intervening years, the pianist has suffered a bereavement, his own health issues, and relocating from London to Tampa, Florida. Lasky was awarded a Fellowship in 2019 at The University of South Florida where he completed his Masters in Jazz Studies. Since graduating he is constantly in demand on the Central Florida jazz scene and has recently formed his own octet.

This new recording then features musicians from both Florida and the UK, and continues Lasky’s interest in melodic contemporary jazz. A versatile pianist with a classical education and a fine improvising musician, Lasky seeks to further hone his writing and arranging skills with a larger ensemble than he has presented before, and testing out the theory that more is, well more.

The opens with a slick and well drilled original ‘The Outsiders’ in which the music moves from one catchy and memorable motif to the next. The rhythm section hold everything down with precision and they are strong solos from trumpeter Shanti Jayasinha and Sam Mayne on alto. The same octet get to grips with some tricky arrangements on ‘Everyday Hero’ which is a truly heroic piece of writing that retains interest through Lasky’s navigation of the band from one moment to the next with some stoic playing from tenorist Paul Booth and Peter Mongaya on guitar.

A departure for Lasky with his group is the inclusion of a vocalist with Ona K, and at first hearing I had my reservations. ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ is taken at a tempo that for one reason or another I just wasn’t feeling, and while there is nothing at all to fault with the arrangement or vocal on ‘Human Nature’ I cannot listen to this song without thinking of Miles who completely owned it.

In fairness to both Lasky and Ona K, these opinions are both down to nothing more than personal taste, and the vocalist excels on a lovely ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ and delivers her coup de grâce on the pianist’s marvellous ‘Closer To The Sky’ a dramatic piece of writing that Ona K brings a sweeping and breathtaking performance in both her delivery of the lyrics and with her wordless vocalising. The arrangement here is absolutely spot on, and the way in which space is made for guest saxophonist Tim Garland’s flowing solo that soars around the vocals is a real highlight.

The octet are back for a swinging ‘Tampa Strut’ that has a suitably sunny disposition. Lasky allows himself a well earned solo and is highly effective on the Wurlitzer piano. In danger of almost writing himself out in order to showcase others in the group, Lasky quite rightly gets to be heard on piano in a duet with Peter Mongaya’s acoustic guitar. A lovely piece in which we get to fully appreciate Lasky’s touch at the keyboard, and perhaps wish there had been more of his playing at the forefront of the music, and the suggestion that sometimes less is actually more.

With ‘For The Dreamers’ Simon Lasky has done just that and dreamt big. The writing is bold and full of interest, and the melodic sensibility to his music that he has been much lauded for remains very much intact. Over the course of the eight compositions presented here there is much to enjoy, and the sense that Lasky is finding a way to bring his diverse musical tastes into a Group sound that is very much his own.

The Simon Lasky Group will perform at the 606 Club on July 10th for the official UK album launch ofFor the Dreamers. Click here for tickets.