John Law’s Congregation
Saturday 23rd October 2021: The Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon.
We had to wait (and it was a long wait) but it was worth it in the end. There was a palpable sense of relief and joy, from band and audience alike, when John Law’s Congregation took to the stage at the Wiltshire Music Centre to present music from their critically acclaimed album CONFIGURATION. Released in May 2020, and garnering more than its fair share of critical accolades by the end of the year, the pandemic curtailed the opportunity to promote this first release for the Ubuntu record label. The question was – how will this music come over in performance after all this time?
The answer is that is that it did so magnificently. John Law’s Congregation offer contemporary jazz that is intelligently informed by a wide range of influences: free jazz, progressive rock, fusion, electronics, minimalism and classical music. Each half of the concert began with a new composition. The first half got under way with ‘Passion’, a tune ushered in with a sample taken from Bach’s St John Passion whilst the second half commenced with the mischievously titled ‘Do You Do Voodoo (I Do Voodoo Too)’.
The bulk of the programme comprised compositions from the CONFIGURATION CD. Each of these pieces conveys a distinctive sound world and the musicians John Law has assembled are perfectly matched to realise these intentions and, as Thelonious Monk put it, “to lift the bandstand”. The interplay between Dave Hamblett’s sensitive and precise drumming, Ashley John Long liquid bass lines and and James Mainwaring’s mercurial saxophone was especially prominent in ‘Complex City’, a tune inspired by the bands visit to India. Other highlights included John Law’s transcendent four-minute introduction to ‘Configuration’, James Mainwaring’s ethereal guitar on ‘And Them’ and the well-deserved encore, the appropriately titled ‘Method In My Madness’.
Overall this was a joyful and memorable evening that ran the musical gamut. From complex composition to inspired improvisation, from the knotty theme of ‘Method In My Madness’ to the melancholic lyricism of ‘Scandinavian Lullaby’. The range of moods and sounds was captivating and inspiring. The ‘official’ London launch of CONFIGURATION takes place on Wednesday 27th October at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG. If you can get there do not hesitate to get a ticket … if not look out for further dates on this tour. This is a band that is not to be missed.