Livestream Portland, OR
Material: First of all, this is one of those occasions where the material is secondary to the cause. Portland blue-eyed soul-jazz artist Jarrod Lawson is seeing 100 percent of the ticket sales matched dollar for dollar by URSA Live and donated to music education nonprofit Little Kids Rock (littlekidsrock.org). So whatever happens, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. The event wasn’t without its hiccups, through no fault of Lawson’s; power failures due to storms in Oregon resulted in a prerecorded gig, concluding with a live Q&A. Sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Fortunately, the material is strong enough that the other stuff is barely noticeable. With a silky smooth but utterly emotive voice, Lawson croons though the tunes like Rat Pack reincarnate.
Musicianship: Performing from his home studio, Lawson seems utterly comfortable because he is. That’s reflected in his playing—his fingers tickle the proverbial ivories with smooth abandon, almost effortlessly. It all syncs perfectly with his expressive vocals. Lawson can hold a note with the best of them and he’s not adverse to the occasional coo and doo-wop-wop. It all adds to the air of classic jazz/soul exuberance and swagger.
Performance: As with a lot of these livestreams, there’s little in the way of “performance” to comment on. Obviously there’s no crowd for him to react to. But still, Lawson does his best. When he sings “Evalee,” about his significant other, it’s hard not to get carried along for the romantic ride. Lawson introduces the song so sweetly and honestly, we all end up rooting for them. But for the most part, this is typical livestream fare—the artist is sat with his instrument, in this case the camera is side on, and he does his stuff. Based on our experiences looking around studios in the past, he had a good tidy- up before allowing us all into his home.
Summary: Lawson is one of those jazzy artists that you could imagine playing super-hip New York jazz clubs, or any number of dinner-theater venues. Hell, there’s no reason why he couldn’t end up in Vegas. He has the chops and he’s got some great tunes. He’s already completed six international tours and has a strong following in countries such as the U.K. The pandemic might have slammed the brakes on career growth, but Lawson will be up and running again as soon as science allows. For now, this show, and the money it raised, is to be applauded.