Out Of The Darkness, Cornucopia Ensemble featuring Andy Sheppard

Artist: John Law

Date of Release: 01/05/2006

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 264

Label: Slam

Price: £14

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Track Listing







Out Of The Darkness Part 1: Exposition - Canons (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 2: Development (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 3: Chaconne (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 4: Slow Movement (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 5: Ensemble (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 6: Fast Movement - Rondo (Law)




Out Of The Darkness Part 7: Coda (Law)




Talitha Cumi (Law)




Nocturne (Law)




The Loop (Law)






Appearances by

Andy Sheppard, Chris Laurence, Paul Clarvis

John Law (piano/director/composer) Andy Sheppard (soprano/tenor saxophones) Chris Laurence (double bass) Paul Clarvis (drums/percussion) Cornucopia Ensemble lead by Rita Manning (violin)

Please note this is an extremely long CD - nearly 80 minutes! Almost a double album.

John Law’s latest project: his large-scale work, Out Of The Darkness. A single piece in seven continuous movements, taking in influences from 20th century (the chromaticism and counterpoint of Shostakovich, the drive of Minimalist/Systems music, the collage of jazz and repeated fragments reminiscent of Turnage, the overlaying of Baroque elements rather like Tan Dun), contemporary jazz/swing and free jazz and containing a beautiful central slow movement, the piece also brings out of the four featured musicians, Andy Sheppard, John Law, Chris Laurence and Paul Clarvis, some of their most inspired playing.
The shorter pieces, Talitha Cumi and Nocturne, from the second half of the concert, present two completely different sound worlds: the former evoking the feeling of Eastern folk music, with a tinge of Garbarek-like ECM about it, and the latter a piece of quietness (mostly) and rich harmonies with a simplicity derived from the repetition of minimalism.
The encore, The Loop, is an unexpectedly funky piece, providing the whole project with a punchy ending.
The ensemble is first-rate: a collection of top classical musicians, some drawn from the ranks of the London Sinfonietta.

Music for the head, the toes and everything in-between!




04/08/2006 John Fordham, The Guardian 5 stars *****

UK pianist/composer John Law has already put out one album this year (the freewheeling Monk 'n' Junk); it's a front-runner among the top 2006 British jazz releases. Now comes another contender, this time in the jazz/contemporary-classical crossover league. Law is one of the most sophisticated and accomplished cross-border musicians around, as he showed on the 2004 Arts Council tour from which these tracks are taken.
Cornucopia joins a jazz quartet (Law, saxophonist Andy Sheppard, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Paul Clarvis) to an eight-piece classical group. The title piece is a seven-part, 45-minute suite, beginning in a darkly Shostakovich-like mood in which brooding strings are illuminated by brass flares, and then the shock of a gritty Sheppard free-jazz tenor eruption. Baroque symmetries turn into loosely swinging improv, while bassoon figures overlaid by string motifs have their melody lines abruptly turned Monkish - as on the uptempo Ensemble. Nocturne is a soprano-sax meditation over pulsating strings, and The Loop is a brilliant, many-layered groover.


26/05/2006 Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter, New York

Featuring John Law's fabulous quartet with John on piano & compositions, Andy Sheppard on tenor & soprano saxes, Chris Laurence on double bass and Paul Clarvis on drums plus the Cornucopia Ensemble which includes a string quartet plus trumpet, trombone, oboe & bassoon. This gem was recorded live at the CBSO Hall in Birmingham, UK in October of 2004. John Law remains one of the under-recognized giants of British modern jazz/new music piano, as all of his dozen solos, duos, trios and quartet discs (FMR, Hat & Slam) can attest to. This is his first disc for a larger ensemble, his regular quartet plus an octet and it is a marvelous effort. The title piece is an epic-length work (46 minutes) and evolves through seven sections. The octet plays haunting harmonies that move back and forth in waves, as the quartet rise powerfully above, first with Andy's tenor and Paul's drums, then veteran bassist Chris Laurence (who is marvelous throughout), begins weaving as well. The quartet and octet swirl mysteriously together, with John's thoughtful writing holding it all together. There are a number of inspired solos from different players throughout this long eventful work, trumpeter Bruce Nockles, Andy Sheppard's saxes and John Law's great piano. Mr. Law's composing and direction has evolved and matured with grace and immense creativity. The entire 12-piece ensemble is so well-integrated, that they sound like they've been playing together for many years. I am reminded at times of Neil Ardley, the legendary British jazz and classical music composer and conductor, who produced half a dozen gems during his long career, yet rarely got the recognition he well deserved. Over 79 minutes long and superb throughout.


01/05/2006 Chris Parker Vortex Jazz Club

Recorded at the CBSO Hall in Birmingham, 17 October 2004, this album features pianist/composer John Law with the Cornucopia Ensemble (an octet: two violins, viola, cello, trumpet, oboe, trombone and bassoon), Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano, bassist Chris Laurence and percussionist Paul Clarvis.

The first section is devoted to an eponymous suite, which begins, appropriately enough, as a murky ensemble swirl that gradually coalesces into form and regular movement, Sheppard alternately roaring (tenor) and piping/wafting (soprano) over a supremely sensitive jazz rhythm section and the multi-textured contributions of the Ensemble.

As saxophonist Jon Lloyd points out in his excellent liner-notes, Law 'is comfortable with the full weight of classical history and [...] at similar ease with the rhythms and harmonies from world musics, the shifting styles of jazz and earlier, pre-classical religious music', and all these sources are beautifully balanced, both in the 46-minute, seven-part piece that forms the bulk of the album, and in the three shorter compositions that succeed it: 'Talitha Cumi' (a delicate, lilting melody featuring Sheppard's soprano juxtaposing sweetly agile time-playing with a circular-breathing free passage), the mesmerisingly attractive 'Nocturne' (written for the 1914 silent film South), and the jaunty closer 'The Loop', dedicated to French reeds player François Courneloup.

Achieving a natural-sounding synthesis rather than an awkward 'bolted-on' effect with the forces at his disposal must have presented a considerable challenge, but John Law has succeeded triumphantly, and the album provides an object lesson in the deployment of elements too often considered incompatible. Recommended!


19/10/2004 John Fordham

Review of the London concert on the tour Out Of The Darkness:

"A rich and completely distinctive contemporary music programme"

* * * * Guardian review (four stars)
This English jazz and contemporary classical pianist composes and teaches quietly in the west country and raises his profile rarely. Yet Alfred Brendel has called him “ an interesting and highly gifted maverick musician ” and Law has deserved much wider public appreciation for years.

Law has been touring with a new ensemble, Cornucopia - a mix of a jazz quartet featuring Andy Sheppard on saxophones, and a group of contemporary classical players from the London Sinfonietta under the violinist Rita Manning. At the Purcell Room, Law devoted the first half to a thickly wrought single composition, Out Of The Darkness, and the second to a variety of shorter, jazzier pieces that often packed an unexpectedly funky punch. Whether he had his tongue in his cheek in naming the second section Light Music (the BBC's former put-down for anything that wasn't classical) is hard to tell - but in announcing that the second half wouldn't have “ the same unremittingly lugubrious intensity ” it's likely.

But Out Of The Darkness was an ambitious piece combining rich and slowly transforming (sometimes rather Mike Gibbs-like) harmonic movements, sudden clustered ensemble sprints and systems-music overlays of phrasing deploying, brass and strings lines against the jazz instruments.

Fiendish drum parts never phased Paul Clarvis, and bursts of hurtling swing travelled on Chris Laurence's bass lines, with Sheppard's flexible sax figures skidding over the top. Law's piano improvisations were often astonishing in their boldness and technical ambition, the more so for being jazz-rooted without mimicking the usual Jarrett, Tyner or Hancock licks.

Law could perhaps have edited his second half a little, but he could find his winding, contrapuntal funky licks in The Loop being hoovered up by samplists, and a wispy Sheppard blues was delicious.

A rich and completely distinctive contemporary music programme.


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