The last year has changed the ways we interact with people, places and time. Night time for some has taken on new significance; walking at night, working at night or maybe just reflecting. What better time, then, to release a recording that was imagined, recorded and, perhaps, should be enjoyed at night?
Lara, A Piano At Night is a collaboration between Hyde Park Book Club (HPBC) Records and the saxophonist, composer and soundscape artist Lara Jones. She has played with avant-garde jazz trio J Frisco and the Beyond Albedo quartet, both supported by Jazz North. In 2020, she released her debut solo album, Ensō.
While studying music in Leeds, Lara experienced insomnia. Unable to sleep, she expressed herself through the piano. Her compositions were developed in the freedom of leaving behind the formal studies of the day. At night, it was just her sounds. The piano was Lara’s first instrument and she talks about how she’s always loved its sound and accessibility. In this production she’s gone back to a simpler time, being alone in the depth of night at Leeds Music College’s rehearsal rooms.
Since then, Lara’s had considerable success with the saxophone. She has been awarded Help Musician’s UK’s Peter Whittingam Jazz Award and become a Jerwood Arts Jazz Encounters Fellow. However, when asked which instrument she wished she played, in an interview by London Jazz News, she had no hesitation in answering piano. She went on to wonder if she would train as a classical pianist, if she had her time over.
Lara, A Piano At Night grew out of a conversation between Lara and Jack Simpson at Hyde Park Book Club. After catching up in current projects he asked what she wanted to make and share. She was prompted to explain her love of piano, how she missed playing it and a vision of her late night compositions being paired with immersive visuals.
Jack set about making this vision a reality. He went online, found a free piano, then the pair organised a van to transport it to Eiger Studios, near Leeds City Centre. At the end of May, Lara found herself playing the piano at 2am. A handful of fellow insomniacs helped with the recording whilst the rest of the City slept.
In Ensō Lara based her work upon her frequent train travel between London and Leeds. The solo saxophone is used to document her journeys but is supplemented by the soundscape provided by field recordings made on her travels. As part of the Jerwood Fellowship it is hoped that she will be be able to create immersive interactive installations in a train station.
In Lara – A Piano At Night, the journey is much more solitary. The accompanying visuals provide a sensory element that help you engage with the City at night. I imagined Lara sitting in the dark as taxies trundled past, their headlights piercing slatted blinds. The circles of light might be the full beams of coaches leaving the bus station across the way from the college rehearsal rooms.
Lara initially trained as a classical saxophone player before switching to jazz. Her classical background is apparent in her approach to jazz, and her composition draws upon classical elements whilst at the same time being fresh and new. She says she’s not a trained pianist or composer but that may have contributed to enabling her to produce something very personal. She has explored a range of techniques in her composition, exhibiting the range of the piano and herself. There’s a flow and continuity here that challenges her assertion that she is not a pianist.
This is a piece of music worthy of repeat listening. You will find yourself relating to different sounds and associated visuals. Try listening to it in the dark, focussing upon the illuminated images with perhaps a glass of something in your hand. Whilst the composition may have been born of insomnia, I found this approach rather relaxing.
The release of Lara, A Piano At Night will be accompanied by a film of the performance which will be aired on February 13th at 8pm.