Pianist Bill Laurence releases the solo work ‘Affinity’

Classically trained composer, sought after collaborator and Grammy award-winning pianist Bill Laurance is set to release his 8th solo record, Affinity, on October 28th, 2022, via Flint Music (available on Bandcamp). The album is his first to consist purely of original solo piano material and select covers.

Stylistically diverging from his previous solo material, Affinity centres around the constant in Bill’s diverse musical career: the piano. With previous records touching on electronic music, a solo piano record was something Bill had considered for a long time:

I’ve wanted to do a solo piano album for as long as I can remember. To perform solo, represents musical freedom in its purest form and there is no other setting where I feel more at home. My last studio album Cables was originally intended to be a solo piano album, but quickly morphed into something quite different involving an endless array of synthesizers and guitar pedals. This time I was determined to celebrate the instrument in all its glory, by itself.

As one of the original members of Snarky Puppy, Bill has, for years, been showcasing his talent in the great tradition of spontaneous creativity and improvisation, a cornerstone of jazz but seemingly at odds with his formal education at Leeds University, where he studied classical music, composition, and performance. Speaking on how he formulated his approach to tying these genres together, Bill says that:

There is a space between contemporary classical and open free improvisation that I believe is yet to be discovered. It’s this space that keeps me inspired. Improvisation and freedom within the compositions are the aspects more closely associated with Jazz. The classical aspects are both more compositional in relation to the harmonic and melodic writing, and also technical and performative in both the full use of dynamic range and a more rubato (expressive and free) approach to the pulse.

In conceiving the material, I would improvise around a rhythmic idea until there was a clear character emerging. In this more solitary setting, I made a point of trusting my instinct and once the character of the song was established, it pretty quickly became clear where it needed to go. As a result, this album was conceived from start to finish in the shortest amount of time to date, just under three weeks.

Cover artwork by Michael Kidner

So what we have in Affinity are ten tracks of sublime piano work from an artist who is at one with the instrument and the music being played. There is a two-song tribute to Bill Evans with new arrangements of ‘Peace, Piece’ and ‘A Child is Born as well as a unique take on The Animal’s 1964 hit ‘House of the Rising Sun’ – and the word ‘unique’ is most definitely correctly applied to this number. What Bill Laurence has managed to do so effectively is marry two piano styles, jazz and classical piano, to create an album of nuanced beauty, timing, and balance. The tempo of the album is leisurely, sedate, calming in a fast-paced world and should be treated with respect. This is an album with which to take time out and disengage from all except the music.

Tracklist: 1. Pillars. 2. Storm. 3. Everything Exists. 4. Affinity. 5. In Good Faith. 6. Sirens. 7. House of the Rising Sun. 8. Peace Piece. 9. A Child is Born. 10. Home.

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