London Jazz News |Adrian Pallant |2019
London-based jazz vocalist and educator Laura Zakian has released four solo albums to date, the most recent – 2014’s Songs for Modern Lovers – including in its line-up pianist Steve Lodder, double bassist Simon Thorpe, drummer Nic Franceand baritone saxophonist Paul Bartholomew. For new project and EP release Minor Moments she returns with that same quartet – but, notably, it marks her creative collaboration with vibraphonist, percussionist and composer Martin Pyne.
Zakian’s lyrics are melded with Pyne’s music to create five songs of emotive introspection and tender beauty, informed by more than a year’s absence from the music scene due to melancholic depression. Taking Martin’s demos as a starting point – either adapted from existing compositions or written specifically with Laura’s voice in mind – she translated those very personal experiences into positivity, crafting phrases which sensitively ebb and flow with the music’s auras and rhythms. Interestingly, as this partnership progressed, the proffered demos’ working titles became intentionally less suggestive of their original inspirations, allowing Zakian’s lyrical development to be unclouded. And it’s clearly been a fulfilling process, which she explains as “a lasting compensation for getting through what I can now say was one of the most difficult periods of my life”.
The resultant songs (chosen from a greater number they have co-written) can be quite affecting as Zakian’s expressions are full of conviction, conveying both despair and hope; and the attractive vibrato heard in the Great American Songbook selections of previous albums has, here, elements of tonal fragility which indicate a deep connection with her words – the sense of evoking past pain, yet finding conquering strength.
Heralded by dark piano discords, the vocal lines of slowly-waltzing Nobody Knowsintimate bewilderment (“Nobody knows why it feels like this; how come it hurts, when all around is bliss”), supported by the rich, reassuring baritone of Paul Bartholomew (Laura’s husband); and Martin Pyne adds retro-tinged bongo momentum to the rising swell of Dreaming Life. Both song titles are illuminated by a melodic hook that remain imprinted long after. The bluesy title track (“Minor moments play their part, they mend a broken heart”) is both elegant and calming, Steve Lodder’s solo piano finely attuned to and ornamenting the dynamics of Zakian’s serene vocal; and though daylight breaks on Here Comes the Fall, it speaks of a restless reality behind the smile as “loneliness creeps round and round”. Finally, in a particularly beautiful, seamless blend of minor and major, Plainsong expresses love and devotion – looking towards the light, sustained as ever by this masterful quartet.
The artistic alliance of Zakian and Pyne intrigues as to what else they may create together, as there is evident empathy in such poignant, meaningful songwriting delivered with gently uplifting grace.
Well this is a surprise bittersweet treat from Laura Zakian: a very late night kind of record brief as it is contained in a five song EP. With pianist Steve Lodder, bassist Simon Thorpe, drummer Nic France and Laura’s husband baritone saxophonist Paul Bartholomew and percussionist/composer Martin Pyne whose tunes Laura writes lyrics for, the pervasive style lands somewhere between the atmosphere of an Anthony Newley or Fran Landesman song, thoughtful and melancholic and above all full of a certain regret. Well worth your time.
Jazz views |Nick Lea| 2019
This five track EP from Laura Zakian is a brave, heartfelt and most welcome return for the singer after a period away from the music scene. Her previous album, Songs For Modern Lovers released some five years ago was a bold part homage to to Frank Sinatra’s classic album Songs For Swinging Lovers, as well as featuring on more contemporary songs that Zakian grew up with. This new release therefore has a magnified importance for Laura as being the first recording for a while, and also marking a return to performing after her recent illness, thankfully now fully recovered, and she delivers a powerful set of all original material (another first), and in doing so has also created an enthralling writing partnership with composer, Martin Pyne that bodes well for future collaborations.
Minor Moments is a deeply personal account from Laura referencing the melancholic depression that gripped her for more than a year, yet also demonstrates the moments of light within the darkness, and the loved ones that are by our side through difficult times, giving way to an underlying optimism. Composer and percussionist, Martin Pyne has worked wonders in creating the perfect musical accompaniment for Laura’s poignant words. You can feel the pain in ‘Here Comes The Fall’ superbly arranged for trio of piano, bass and drums, and the full band on Dreaming Life’. The uplifting ‘Plainsong’ features Zakian’s husband, Paul Bartholomew’s full bodied baritone saxophone shadowing the vocal line. This contrast between voice and saxophone is wonderfully exploited, yet seemingly underplayed, to give a delicious and often spine tingling sensibility to the compositions.
Much of the pleasure in this beautifully understated and reflective music is the complex emotions imparted in Laura’s voice that can at once be strong, and then show a vulnerable fragility which is all captured perfectly in the title track where Laura’s voice and Steve Lodder’s exquisite piano playing make this a duet performance to relish.
This is a most welcome return from Laura and promises much for the future ahead.