A major event in Ribble Valley’s musical calendar kicks off tonight.
The seventh Ribble Valley Jazz Festival launches with Bill Laurance who won a Grammy with transatlantic ensemble Snarky Puppy, the acclaimed fusion band.
He has just released his third album under his name and The Bill Laurance Trio who will appear at the Grand tonight. Tony Dewhurst spoke to Bill about his incredible career so far.
“It was like some sort of surreal, crazy dream,” recalled jazz maestro Bill Laurance. He said: “Snarky Puppy had been invited to play on a cruise ship in the South China Sea, and at the end of the set Quincy Jones came over said, ‘You know man, every time I hear Snarky Puppy play the sound makes my soul smile.’
“I couldn’t contemplate it, you know, one of America’s most famous record producers saying that about us. It was wild.”
He continued: “Then I saw Stevie Wonder, so I nervously approached him and asked to what advice he could give me about the music business.
“Very humbly, one of the greatest singers ever turned to me and said, ‘Bill, you are the glue of society, and it is your role and responsibility to keep love and unity on this planet through music.’
“It took Snarky Puppy nine years of grafting and no money before anybody really knew about us and here I was hanging out with Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones.”
Laurance added: “It was beyond anything I could ever contemplate happening and it still is. I was truly humbled. And it’s just pushing me further.”
Laurance’s feet are back on Terra firma now as the Grammy Award winning pianist and composer, who has seen Snarky Puppy emerge from an underground secret to grow to be one of the most internationally respected names in instrumental music.
“The Grammys was amazing, so inspiring. We had a limo for the day and did the red carpet bit, meeting all these people I’d only seen on television.
“I do feel a bit spoiled, but winning the Grammy with Snarky Puppy changed everything. It has proved an incredible journey so far, but it is always important to reflect and remain humble.”
The group’s success has helped launch his burgeoning solo career, which sees him release a third album, Aftersun, a beat-feast of deep African, latin and jazz-rock rhythms recorded in New Orleans.
The hypnotic nature of dance music is something keyboardist Laurance has explored on his two previous albums, Flint and Swift.
But with dance and African percussion at its heart, his new work combines deep world grooves with Laurance’s signature musical exploration that in the past has seen him melt jazz, funk and dubstep to produce an irresistible fusion of sound.
“I think it is about coming back to my instinct as a percussionist and embracing the groove side of things and we’ve done that with the new record,” added Laurance whose solo work saw him land Jazz FM’s Breakthrough Act Award.
“We filtered the sound down to its roots, and we played with the legendary Ghanaian percussionist Weedie Braihma, who is a just a force of nature. He added that magical extra spice to a lot of tasty ingredients.”
Tonight, Laurance will be accompanied by drummer Richard Spaven, who has worked with Gregory Porter and bass player Jon Harvey, founder of London based Electro Groove collective Native Dancer.
He added: “My first record, Flint, took me ten years to finish. This one took ten
days and we just wholeheartedly embraced the spontaneity of it all.
“Now, suddenly, everything seems possible.”
Tickets are £15 and the box office number is 01200 421599.