Pianist and composer Chad Lawson’s performing career has visited byways of various musical genres, and through it all, his own musical voice has evolved into an intimate, expressive one that had him topping sales charts in the early 2010s.
As a five-year-old kid, Lawson wanted music lessons after seeing Sha-Na-Na on TV. As is typical, those lessons turned out to be mostly classically-oriented piano ones. When it came time to go to college, he applied to the Peabody Conservatory but decided to focus on jazz and attended Berklee College of Music instead, where he also picked up studio keyboard gigs. After graduation, he ended up touring with Babik Reinhardt, and then formed his own jazz trio with Zack Page on bass and Al Sergel on drums. The Trio’s self-titled debut album was released in 1997, followed by two more on the Summit label — Dear Dorothy: The Oz Sessions (2002) and Unforeseen (2004) — which did well on jazz charts. Dear Dorothy led to Lawson’s music being used on the TV show Dawson’s Creek and in coffee shops, and to his scoring Doughboys (Louis Lombardi, 2007). Lawson and the trio then took a break while he toured as keyboardist with Julio Iglesias in 2007.
William Ackerman, Windham Hill’s founder, had taken an interest in Lawson’s music and helped launch Lawson’s first solo album, Set on a Hill, in 2009. It marked a new direction for Lawson’s career as five more solo projects appeared between 2011 and 2014, each earning some kind of editorial recognition from organizations.
Lawson’s solo work has a relaxed, meditative feel that draws on both the sonorities of classical music and the freeform nature of jazz improv. The feel of his music becomes even more intimate with The Space Between (2013), where he altered the sound of the piano by placing extra felt between the hammers and strings and placed the microphone close to the hammers. He used those same modifications in 2014 for The Chopin Variations, based on the Romantic composer’s melodies. ~ Patsy Morita