Since his early beginnings as a classical child prodigy, then training as a classical concert pianist, and later changing over to jazz, contemporary composition and creative music in 1983, John Law has gained the reputation as being one of Europe's leading jazz pianist/composers.
An under-recognised giant of British modern jazz/new music piano. Downtown Music Gallery New York 2006
One of the UK’s most imaginative and versatile jazz pianists. International Piano Magazine 2014
John Law, a prize-winning classical prodigy on piano, turned away from classical piano studies to pursue jazz and improvised music when he was 23 and has been involved in, and acclaimed for, a wide variety of contemporary jazz and classical projects: from solo piano concerts and albums, through trio and quartet tours and recordings, right through to large scale works for his semi-classical ensemble Cornucopia.
He has played at over fifty festivals worldwide including North Sea Jazz Festival (Rotterdam), Delhi International Jazz Festival and London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and in clubs and concert halls all over the UK, mainland Europe, North America and beyond, working with musicians as diverse as Gwilym Simcock, Andy Sheppard, Jason Rebello, Tim Garland and Evan Parker. He has recorded over forty albums. John’s main projects currently are his acclaimed quartet Congregation, featuring Mercury Prize nominee James Mainwaring and playing John’s original music, bringing together acoustic and electronic music, his all-acoustic quartet Re-Creations, featuring Parliamentary Jazz Award winner Sam Crockatt, playing versions of tunes from jazz/pop/classical and Renaissance, an ambient, electronic keyboards project with saxophonist Jon Lloyd and visual artist Patrick Dunn, playing improvised music over samples created out of sacred vocal music from the 15th and 16th centuries.Photo: Melanie Day
An interesting and highly gifted maverick musician Alfred Brendel
When he records for ECM he'll become a star Jazzthethik, Germany
...combining the vocabularies of jazz and classical in a singular and seamless way, coalescing improvisational surprise and a deep elegiac musicality...
All About Jazz 2011
John Law started classical piano aged four and performed first in public at six. After winning an Open Scholarship he studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he won prizes for piano playing. Despite winning an Austrian government scholarship to study in Vienna and receiving mentoring from an early classical influence, pianist Alfred Brendel, he turned to jazz in 1986, forming his first group ATLAS, a mainly freely-improvising trio.
From 1986 to 1996 John concentrated more on the experimental end of jazz, particularly in his association with the South African drummer Louis Moholo, with the Jon Lloyd Quartet and with his own quartet. The John Law/Louis Moholo Duo recorded the highly praised CD The Boat Is Sinking, Apartheid Is Sinking (Impetus 19322), appeared on British radio and toured extensively in the UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Canada, appearing at many major festivals. The Jon Lloyd Quartet appeared on British radio, toured the UK opposite Bill Frisell, made three acclaimed CDs and played at festivals, including the 1995 FMP Festival, Berlin. With his own small groups John recorded and toured in the UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Russia, Lithuania and Belarus, including many festival appearances. A later quartet, formed 1993, with Paul Dunmall (saxophones), Barry Guy (double bass) and Louis Moholo, called Extremely Quartet, toured the UK and appeared at the 1998 Nickelsdorf Festival, Austria. They released the CD Extremely Quartet (Hat Hut CD6199) in 1997. John was also involved occasionally during this period with the Evan Parker Quartet.
...so full of joy that it can renew your faith not just in jazz, but music itself.
Phil Johnson, Independent on Sunday 2011
While John Law was exploring the more radical and freely improvised areas of jazz he also began a series of solo CDs which were to lead him back to an exploration of his classical roots. The four-CD series Chants, Cornucopia CRCDS01 (Talitha Cumi, 1994, FMR CD06, Pentecost, 1996, FMR CD027, The Hours, 1997, FMR CD40 and Thanatos CRCD04) was based on plainchant and, as well as jazz, explored the history and techniques associated with classical piano as well as introducing certain harmonic elements derived from early and mediaeval music. The CDs received outstanding reviews around the world. Concentrating on this music, John gave concerts in the UK in concert halls, churches and universities, and appeared at major festivals in London, Le Mans and Clusone.
From 1996, moving away from the freer improvising end of jazz, John Law began to be more involved with contemporary jazz and composition. He formed a trio with Tim Wells (bass) and Paul Clarvis (drums). This group recorded four critically-acclaimed CDs, one of them, The Onliest, exploring the music of Thelonious Monk. They toured the UK and appeared at festivals in England and France. Later, the drummer Dave Wickins came into the trio and this group gave concerts in the UK and Germany.
In 2000 John created the project Abacus, featuring US drummer Gerry Hemingway and, with Jon Lloyd and Tim Wells also included, this group became the continuation of the Jon Lloyd Quartet, performing both John Law's more radical compositions as well as material by Jon Lloyd. This quartet recorded the acclaimed CD Abacus (hatOLOGY567) which received two awards from the French magazine Jazzman, one awarded for CD of the year 2001. The group toured the UK in 2000, appearing at the Bath International Festival. In 2001, continuing to develop his own approach to the jazz language, John Law formed a quartet, adding to his trio the British saxophonist Tim Garland. The quartet recorded the CD The Moment (CRCD06) and toured the UK in 2001.
2002/3 saw John working in two completely different areas. Returning to more radical, open music, John started a collaboration with the German drummer Klaus Kugel, appearing together at the International Vilnius Festival with the Lithuanian soprano saxophonist Petras Vysniauskas in a triumphant concert to a packed Vilnius Philharmonic Hall and later touring the UK with him in a European quintet including Jon Lloyd and the bass clarinettist Michel Pilz, as well as appearing with him in a quartet at the Portuguese festival in Coimbra. At the same time, moving in the opposite direction into more accessible territory, John began a two piano collaboration with the pianist Jason Rebello, opening their concerts with Bach and closing with Ravel's Bolero.
...technical bravura with crystal clear, fast passagework coupled with a sovereign command over everything that is pianistically possible. You wonder if there is actually anything that this pianist cannot do.
Jazz Podium, Germany 1997
2004 started with John performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to a sell out audience at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon and performing in Vienna with the Austrian vibraphone player and composer (and principal percussionist of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra) Flip Philipp. Later that year saw two major projects: John Law's European Quartet UK tour In Extremis, with Tim Wells and featuring, from France, François Corneloup (baritone and soprano saxophones) and Eric Échampard (drums), including a performance at the Bath Festival and interview/performance for Radio Three and, in the autumn, the culmination of several years' work and planning: a 12-piece ensemble called Cornucopia, presenting the classical/jazz crossover project Out Of The Darkness. This UK tour, funded by a major Arts Council of England touring grant, featured a quartet of John, Andy Sheppard (saxophones), Chris Laurence (bass) and Paul Clarvis (drums) within a classical ensemble of eight instrumentalists, including some from the London Sinfonietta. The concert tour (of which the London performance at the Purcell Room drew a rare five star review from the Guardian’s John Fordham) featured new compositions by John Law, including a major new work: Out Of The Darkness. Music from this tour appeared in 2006 on the label Slam. John also completed, in December 2005, his classical performance diploma in piano, gaining distinction.
February 2006 saw the start of an important new project: the John Law/Sam Burgess/Asaf Sirkis trio The Art of Sound. John began working with Asaf (drums) and Sam (bass) in 2005. In 2006 they recorded, at the Italian studio Artesuono, their first CD: The Art Of Sound Volume 1, which appeared in May 2007 on 33 Records. In November 2007 John was commissioned to compose and perform a large-scale work to accompany the silent film classic The Last Laugh by F.W. Murnau, for the Bath Film Festival. John was awarded a major Arts Council of England grant to tour this project nationally in 2008/09, performing with Jon Lloyd (soprano saxophone/bass clarinet) and the classical percussionist Jeremy Little. In 2008 John was made Artist-in-Residence at Essex University, for 2008/09 starting there with a solo concert. He further developed his solo piano playing with two solo CD releases, The Ghost in the Oak and Chorale, volumes 2 and 3 in the Art of Sound series, for 33 Records, recorded in October 2007 and released in 2008. 2009 was a period of continued development with the Art of Sound trio, with extensive touring nationally in the UK, including a London Ronnie Scotts debut, and abroad, where the trio appeared at the international Vilnius Festival. In this year the trio released the milestone, critically-lauded CD Congregation, The Art of Sound Volume 4, finishing off the four CD series all recorded at the Italian studio Artesuono. This CD had the first beginnings of added subtle electronic effects in the instruments which was to be a later feature of the trio.
One of the most distinctive groups around.
All About Jazz 2009
2010 was an important year for John’s trio. There was a change in the bass position, with the Russian bass player Yuri Goloubev taking over from Sam Burgess. This trio made their debut at Amsterdam’s famous Bimhuis in April. Further trio tours in the UK followed, with a European tour (this time with Tom Farmer, from the British band Empirical, on bass) in September, culminating in an appearance at the Saarbrücken Jazz Festival, a concert that was recorded live on German radio. Also, in this year, John joined Jon Lloyd’s new quintet project, touring nationally and he made the two piano recording This is, with his (at that time) rising star pupil Mark Pringle. At the end of this year John started his Opt project, a flexible pool of trio members playing his versions of other peoples tunes, including, alongside jazz standards, new versions of tunes by Sting, the Beatles, Nick Drake and others. This idea was to become, much later, the very popular quartet Re-Creations.
2011 was to prove vital for the development of John Law’s trio: three extended European tours, a first appearance at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival and a specially commissioned studio set, and interview, for British Radio 3. The latter session eventually became a new CD release, in early 2012, on 33 Jazz: Three Leaps of the Gazelle. This year also saw the development of further extensions to the sound palette of the trio, with the addition of glockenspiel and hang drum to the drums and development of use of keyboards and iPod effects to the piano. During this time, with the establishment of Yuri Goloubev in the bass role, the trio changed its name to Congregation. Later that year, continuing his work in the two piano format, John performed in the International Two Piano Festival, appearing to stunning audience acclaim at St. George's Hall Bristol, with Mercury nominee Gwilym Simcock. The year 2012 saw an ever-increasing touring schedule for the trio and also, with the sensationally received release of his CD This is, with Mark Pringle, John toured the two piano project nationally, opening in London for Gwilym Simcock and Yaron Herman at the Pizza Express Steinway Piano Festival.
John Law is one of three British musicians to have emerged over the last few years who are genuinely world class... He really is a major talent!
Avant Magazine 1997
In 2013 John started to move more into electronics, with a new project called Boink! Playing only keyboards and electronic gadgets, alongside Jon Lloyd on soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and effects, Rob Palmer on guitar and effects and Laurie Lowe on drums, John wrote new compositions utilising electronic backing track samples. Though the group was only a short-lived one, many of the ideas in it were to be explored later, more thoroughly, with John’s quartet project Congregation. Boink! also featured live visuals by Patrick Dunn, who was to collaborate extensively with John on later projects.
The year 2014 produced two new recordings, both released in early 2015: Goldberg, John's new take on J.S.Bach's classic masterpiece The Goldberg Variations and These Skies In Which We Rust a double CD of all new compositions for quartet and trio. This latter project, called John Law's New Congregation was an extension of John's trio and comprised Josh Arcoleo, Yuri Goloubev and Laurie Lowe. This would later become the quartet simply called John Law’s Congregation. In September 2015 John was awarded a major Arts Council funding grant to tour the quartet in the UK in 2016. The Goldberg project, comprising a straight reading, on piano, of Bach’s work accompanied by live visuals by David Daniels and operated by Patrick Dunn, alongside original re-interpretations of various solo pieces by Bach, toured the UK in 2016-2018.
2017 saw the start of two important quartet projects: Re-Creations, featuring Parliamentary Jazz Award winner Sam Crockatt on saxophones, James Agg, bass and Billy Weir, drums - playing reinterpretations of tunes from jazz, pop and classical music - plus the latest formation of John’s original music project now called simply John Law’s Congregation. This new line-up featured James Mainwaring (from Mercury Prize nominees Roller Trio) on saxophones/guitar/electronics, Ashley John Long on bass and Billy Weir on drums. Congregation toured the UK and Germany in 2017 and, in February 2018, India, with support from PRS Foundation. In 2018 the quartet recorded the music for the later album CONFIGURATION, appearing later on Ubuntu Music. Meanwhile Re-Creations, after recording their first CD Re-Creations Volume 1 (33JAZZ 267) toured throughout the UK in 2017/18, proving exceptionally popular with audiences.
In early 2018 John started a new two piano project: Sacre, with David Gordon. This duo was formed to play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (in the composer’s own two piano arrangement) with original reinterpretations of several movements from this classic 20th century masterpiece, by both John and David, interpolated inside the original music. The duo premiered this new work at London’s Pizza Express Steinway Two Piano Festival in March 2018. Despite the fact that the project proved extremely popular with audiences, from both classical and jazz, the duo had to abandon the original concept because of copyright restrictions from the Stravinsky Foundation.
At the end of 2018 John returned to the studio Artesuono, with his quartet Re-Creations, recording a solo album (Re-Creations volume 2) and a quartet one (Re-Creations volume 3, both released on 33 JAZZ).