ALBUM REVIEW: Laraaji – ‘Sun Piano’: solo piano from Eno’s stable

LARAAJI, the ambient musician, laughter therapist and even one-time stand-up born Edward Larry Gordon – who has even rubbed celluloid shoulders with Antonio Fargas, aka ‘Huggy Bear’, from Starsky and Hutch, has one hell of a joyous and creative meander through this world.

He shapes up this week to release what may be his 62nd album by my rough calculation since his discovery by Eno busking Washington Square Park, NY, that fateful day in the late 1970s – I am ready to stand corrected, with such a Sun Ra-like, furious rate of productivity.

And he has decided to return to his first instrumental love, the piano, which he cut his musical teeth on in the Baptist Church of New Jersey as a teenager before further refinement as a piano major at Howard University, Washington, in the Sixties. The result? Sun Piano, which is out tomorrow.

One thing you could never accuse Laraaji of is pessimism. If you were one of those lucky enough to catch his early afternoon set at End of the Road in 2017, you’ll know he brought an unflinching personal and musical lightness to bear on proceedings, inviting his hushed audience to take part in a laughter exercise; generally and wholly uplifting this quiet corner of Dorset into bliss.

Laraaji, photographed by Daniel Adantan

So it is with Sun Piano, which draws heavily on that Baptist melodicism, although shearing it of any overweening invocation to be afraid of the fates; the tunes are beautifully executed, ringing, and draw in strands of jazz a la McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson; bright melodicism from the Great American Songbook, more classical flourishes, free expression and trills and emphasis when you can tell he’s just running with the euphoria of sound, inside the pocket.

A change from the more cosmic, trippy zithers his fanbase have come to embrace it may be. But with a personality like the summer sun, you couldn’t mistake his latest for anyone else. He radiates through – on Sun Piano’s second track, “Hold On To The Vision”, you can hear him whisper-breathing, as if in self-affirmation, happy at what he is creating for us.

Sun Piano follows the twin albums for All Saints, Bring On The Sun and Sun Gong, and also the remixes spinoff Sun Transformations.  Yes, you might be right; there is a heliocentric theme somewhere in there …

It’s intended to form part of a next chapter in Laraaji’s work, in the form of a trilogy: a companion, nocturnal album, entitled Moon Piano, will follow later this year, and an extended EP of piano-autoharp duets is also on the horizon.

 Laraaji’s Sun Piano will be released by All Saints tomorrow, July 17th. You can order your copy here.

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