‘Is This Thing On?' by John ConnearnReview
This afternoon saw the release of the brand new John Connearn EP called ‘Is This Thing On?', his first record since "Push & Pull" which came out on the memorable date of 22/02/2020. It's excellent value for money too, comprising no fewer than six tracks: "Distracted", "Hold That Thought", "Early Bird", "Busy Brain", "Quite Far Enough" and "After All".
You can also view an excellent video for "Distracted" created by Émilie Cotterill of Transluceo Photography at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqg4gEVnMsQ
Fortunately John has such an abundance of skills (and presumably kit) that even the pandemic has not prevented his being able to cause these half dozen tracks to come into being in this way, since he has not only written them all & produced them all but each one is wholly performed by him. This multi instrumentalist aspect of his talents is I suppose one of the real revelations of John's developing solo career (check out too his debut "First Things First" which also appeared on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three') and reminds us all (especially me as a reviewer) not just to focus on his virtuoso guitar skills (and frankly that helps me: his playing reaches levels I simply do not possess the technical vocabulary to describe to you) but remember his years with a band where he learned to value the song and how different instruments support & enhance his central performance. This sensitivity also probably explains why all tracks come in at the "right" length for a pop track with none passing four minutes: there is no extended guitar wigging out going on here.
The terrain covered is his trademark high class playing combined with taste. The jazz fusion template is still very much in evidence but within that there are a range of interesting flavours to instil variety. Bits of funk rear their head & it would seem that John has been listening to musical styles from around the world during lockdown judging by the Latin and other nuances.
As I say, he writes with a brevity which helps accessibility & inasmuch as this type of music is ever going to have a mass appeal, there is a pop awareness of what can be memorable: certainly all tracks are easy on the ear: there is no sense of letting his musical abilities challenge the listener as he might have done. Tempos do vary (I like the slowing down of the last tracks: an interesting choice) and nowhere does his playing become the blur of notes that again he might have gone for. Each has its own identifiable melodic theme & though of course these are varied & evolved, they also appeal & stay with us.
I'd hope that ‘Is This Thing On?' gets the audience its quality deserves: I know that mainstream media seldom lands on jazz instrumentals, even if performed by a member of a band whose work they were as eager to play as they were The Ellipsis. However this is classy & thoughtful stuff which I can't imagine anyone actually not liking. Go on: give something a little bit different a try. It's worth your time.