ARTIST: Jarrod Lawson
ALBUM: ‘Be The Change’
RELEASE: 30 October 2020
LABEL: Dome Records
It’s been a few years since singer-songwriter-keyboardist Jarrod Lawson emerged seemingly out of nowhere with a self-produced debut album that took the world of soul and jazz by storm. The former stonemason and piano tuner from Portland, Oregon had been described by the Evening Standard as “the blue-eyed soul boy of jazz” and hailed by Echoes magazine as the” hottest new talent to hit soul music in at least 10 years”. In the wake of his debut, he notched up a plethora of accolades and awards including the 2014 Album of the Year runner-up at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards.
Jarrod Lawson occupies the jazzier side of the soul genre. He has a staggering, heartfelt vocal range and an ability to swing, scat and groove. He has an old-school vibe that brings to mind the likes of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu – a sound very much en vogue with a new, younger audience discovering these artists for the first time.
Touring and producing has kept him busy, but Lawson is back. A long time in the making, he presents his second album, Be The Change, a collection of originals that aim to speak to our hearts and reflect the contemporary social climate.
Lawson’s trademark layered harmonies, inventive jazz fusion arrangements and considerable keyboard skills are in evidence throughout Be The Change. The album came together, as Lawson explains “upon meeting a man who would change my life forever”, the legendary, Grammy-nominated, percussionist, Sammy Figueroa. Figueroa – whose storied career spans decades of collaborations with artists such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, David Bowie and Chaka Khan – had reached out and wanted to work with Lawson. His rhythmic presence is deeply felt on six of the eleven tracks
Title track and lead single is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words that “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Lawson says, “My intent with this lyric is to offer a glimpse of a future where social and environmental irresponsibility dissolves to make way for accountability and foresight. A world where the concerns of future generations become the concerns of this and every generation.”
Elsewhere on the album, Amber Navran from the alternative R&B trio Moonchild guests on the shimmering I’ll Be Your Radio (on vocals and flute) alongside her fellow band members who contribute clarinet and flugelhorn. On the smoldering torch song Love Isn’t Always Enough Max Ribner’s trumpet and flugel provide the perfect mood-setting accompaniment.
Jarrod’s earliest memories were exploring his own father’s recording studio in Redwood City, California, the family home at the time. At the age of two he had found his way to the drum-kit which created in him a highly rhythmic sensibility. At thirteen, as Jarrod explored the magnificent harmonies of soul, a near-obsession with the piano blossomed. Lessons began under his father’s tutelage and he discovered the masters—from Chopin to Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson to Pastorius, Errol Garner, Ravel, Joni Mitchell and, of course, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, two giants who would inspire and inform his own development as a singer and songwriter. Lawson went on to study music, though by his own admission, hated theory and didn’t learn to read music. For him, it’s less about the learning, and more about the feeling; the vibe.