Jazz Behind Bars. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that title when I first saw it. After reading the bio sheet, however, I see that it was apparently some sort of play on words, as the group is a recording project, Lawless Percussion and Jazz Ensemble, conceived by leader Larry Lawless. Several group members are music educators, as well as graduates of the North Texas School of Music, while one is the founder of the DrummerCafe forum and a studio drummer/percussionist in Nashville. So much for the obvious assumption most likely drawn by many from the album title! The cover’s Old West backdrop might serve as a hint that it’s tongue-in-cheek, also.
This most interesting percussion-based, straight-ahead, rich and clear project boldly chooses to walk you through the entire album devoid of the traditional array of horns, keys, guitar, and vocals, and beckons you along with just the magic of the distinctly colorful vibes and other assorted goodies (marimbas, drums, wood blocks, MalletKat Bass, etc.) to rhythmically stomp through, sometimes dancing past in a very slight island shimmy of sorts. A vibrant, potent, and entertaining undertaking overall, I have my favorites here, like Lawless’s "The Doctor and The Deacon," a piece heavy on the pronouncement of drums and vibes.Lawless and Co. do a great job of steering the spotlight on such an integral part of the arsenal of instruments in music and, on this project, they make a very clear statement on the major contributions made by percussions and their overall impact on jazz.