John E. Lawrence Grooves in Ypsilanti
Music Goes Local
By: Susan Hall - May 01, 2023
The old Freighthouse has been converted into a nightclub in downtown Ypsilanti. A lifetime resident of Ypsilanti, guitarist and jazz composer John E. Lawrence has been in residence for a week. The final evening is a concert, sold out, with hopefuls hovering at the door.
Lawrence is known for smooth jazz. Yes, it’s easy on the ear, but it’s soulful too. Melodies emerge from his instrument, held up by a white sequined guitar strap, twinkling in time with the plucks of fingers or the pick.
His Power Band is formed by Rayse Biggs and Eddie “Two Lips” Taylor on trumpets and Don Whyte crooning on the saxophone. Ted Bannon on Bass guitar, with keyboard and drums.
Jazz sophistication is expressed in the melodic lines, which have meat on them. Storytelling abounds in often gritty details.
Lawrence talks to us about groove. He is in a groove, on a groove, succumbing to the slippery-slick groove. Sometimes the melodies are soothing chill. And often they are deeply moving. Repeated rhythms arise from the interaction of drums and keyboard. Subtle deviations from rigid regularity in repetitions thrill.
Don Whyte on the saxophone blends with the rhythm section.
Sheets of sound are unabashed. Lawrence lays down lovely textures, his fingers picking funky grooves.
The audience, feeling this visceral music, moves with the band.
Lawrence organizes a summer jazz festival in Ypsilanti. On Friday evenings for free, you can hear Jeff Lorber, Everett Harp, Lin Rowntree, Norm Brown and the man himself with the Power Band. They are outside in Riverside Park and welcome visitors.