Bill Laurance & The Untold Orchestra: Bloom

The leader's extempore piano and some bluesy solo violin work bring a touch of jazz to a set of pieces for string orchestra

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Pianist and keyboardist Bill Laurance is a founder member of the highly vaunted Grammy award-winning jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy. Since the band’s earliest recordings such as The Only Constant (Sitmom, 2006) Laurance has been an integral member of the group.

London-born Laurance began learning and playing piano whilst at primary school. He later attended the University of Leeds where he studied classical music, composition and performance and met jazz student Michael League. The two became friends and performed a few gigs in the UK together before League invited Laurance to join his incipient Snarky Puppy.

In addition to his contributions to Snarky Puppy, comprising over a dozen live and studio recordings, Laurance has been concurrently releasing recordings under his own name such as the solo piano recording Affinity (Flint, 2022) and the exuberant Live At The Philharmonie Cologne (with the WDR Big Band) (Jazzline, 2019).

Most recently, Laurance and Snarky Puppy founder, leader and bassist League made a duo record entitled Where You Wish You Were (ACT, 2023) whose title might be suggestive of a desire for a change from the high-octane, performative Puppies. This duo album proved to be a surprising and significant departure from the usual Snarky fare. It is subtle, thoughtful and elegant.

In the wake of his last solo album Live At The EFG London Jazz Festival 2021 (with The Untold Orchestra) (Flint Music, 2022), Laurance has again called upon the services of this 18-piece Manchester-based string ensemble to produce Bloom. The opening title track initially suggests there is little to associate the music with jazz, but Laurance’s deft piano is gradually introduced, evincing an element of blues-jazz over the pulsing strings.

On Before The Sun, Laurance affords a more free-flowing jazzy feel to the piano and this modus operandi applies to the remainder of the pieces. Lyra even involves some bluesy solo violin towards the end of the track. The orchestra often provides a staccato underlying driving force to the compositions, with ostinato passages sometimes verging on minimalism. But overall, what Laurance has achieved here is a captivating merger of classical string orchestra and piano extemporisation, in other words a genuine genre-defying fusion.

Discography
Bloom; Before the Sun; All At Once; Right Where We Are; Strange Love; Shots; Above All; Lyra; The Right Time (47.04)
Laurance (p, elp, p, syn); The Untold Orchestra: Rory Storm (cond); Simmy Singh, Katie Foster, Cleo Annandale, Mateus Dandalo, Didier Osindero, Helena Logah, Eleanor Shute, Chloe Hayward (vn); Rosamund Hawkins, Sophia Dignam, Nadia Eskandari, Emily Davies (vla); Polly Virr, Awen Blandford, Reyan Murtadha, Lucy McLuckie (clo); Marcus Vinicius, Alice Phelps (b). Manchester, 21-23 September, 2022.
ACT 9059-2