By Kira Grunenberg | Published December 2018
The title track on The Bathtub And The Sea feels more orchestral, and then more indie folk, than anything expected of a jazz album. Legato brass offer a tone that’s given room to breathe, instead of perhaps the sharp and loudly pronounced style of big-band or free-form jazz. Brush-stroked snare, tambourine and Jo Lawry’s delicate voice float along with crisp strums of the cornerstone acoustic guitar, making it difficult not to consider a crossed path or two between Lawry and singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan. The 7/4 time signature only adds to the intriguing parallel.
Even with so much folk stylization, jazzy artistry breaks through. Chromaticism on “The Kitchen Sink” pairs with Lawry’s rhythmic guitar, prominent shakers, twinkling piano and gracefully bowed violin to evoke a Latin flair, and the slower tempo creates a sensual air. Remnants of the lighter Latin fare resurface on “Olive Tree.” An easygoing upright bass swings the music closer to jazz, as the acoustic guitar’s notes trade definition and clean edge for a tonal softness befitting classical Spanish guitar. And while Lawry’s collaboration with Sting on “Unlearning” isn’t the finale, it feels the most fantastical of her relationship-driven inspirations. The synchronous harmonies draped in a choir-like reverb, accents of poised pizzicato and a gradual crescendo that run the entire song toward a grand apex, epitomize how Lawry brings emotion and imaginative metaphors to a fully fleshed-out place.
The Bathtub And The Sea: The Bathtub And The Sea; Please Don’t Think; Unlearning; Jenny Kissed Me; If I Saw You; So Far, So Good; The Kitchen Sink; Wedding Song; Olive Tree; Open Me Up; The End Of The World. (47:07)
Personnel: Jo Lawry, vocals, guitar; Adam Levy, guitar; Will Vinson, piano, keyboard; Nate Wood, bass; Dan Rieser, drums; Theo Bleckmann, vocals; Jamey Haddad, percussion; Ben Wendel, bassoon; Orlando Le Fleming, bass; Nadje Noordhuis, trumpet; Chris Komer, French horn; Ryan Keberle, trombone; Alan Ferber, trombone, bass trombone; Hideaki Aomori, clarinet; Sting, vocals (3); Attacca Quartet, strings.