Back in 2013, a conversation started on Twitter about me needing a best of compilation. I said something to the effect that I didn't know what I'd put on it, and the two friends that I was talking about it with - Mike and Tom, offered to sort it out between them.
I'm deeply indebted to both of them for the work and time they put into this - they've both been a source of friendship, support and valued critique on my work for two decades. For that I'm immensely grateful.
- Steve Lawson
When Tom and I started to compile the "Best of Steve Lawson..." list, we quickly found that there was too much good stuff to fit on one album. Splitting the tracks into "Solo" and "Collaboration" tracks was a fairly easy way to differentiate, but even then it was difficult to pick tracks that would sit well together and create approximately 70 minutes of music (one CD-worth of audio). Of course, the physical constraints of CD length is much less of an issue now, but for the sake of the listener, I think it works well to keep the playlist within reasonable limits of what might be considered "an album".
- Mike K Smith
Below is the public conversation and Google doc annotations that Mike (@MikeKSmith) and Tom (@DancingMonk) had on Twitter about the tracks as they were compiling the list (the limits for the project were that I wanted to be able to release them on CD if needed).
CD2 - Because one is never enough
Current running time for the tracks below 1:08:58
Preamble: Improvisation at its best should appear effortless, seamless, weightless. But much like the swan gliding across the water, there is a lot going on under the surface. The ability to play, listen intently, be ready to take the lead line, yet lay back and play a supporting role giving your collaborators’ lines room to breath is a real skill that the musicians here have clearly mastered, as these tracks will hopefully show. It's hard to believe that the majority of these tracks were not written down, discussed, structured or planned in advance.
As ringmaster, instigator, fire-starter, curator, Steve has brought together some extraordinarily fine musicians for his collaborations. He’s either very lucky or very clever. Most likely both.
“Spontaneity favours the prepared mind” - Louis Pasteur.
Lawson/Dodds/Wood - Number Six
@DancingMonk - lazy chill out weekend with a big glass of red wine & friends
@MikeKSmith - it's amazing the results from three accomplished musicians plus a modicum of post-production tidying, gardening. Great rise and fall on this.
For the Love of Open Spaces - Uncle Bernie
@DancingMonk - the bass does all the work & the sax glues the whole thing together - genius role reversal
@MikeKSmith - Soundtrack to any sleazy 70s movie and/or a fusion of funky bass and sinewy sax. Either way the balance is spot on.
Calamateur vs Steve Lawson - How Long
@DancingMonk - A real cry from the heart. Emotion wrung from the soul
@MikeKSmith - Combine sonic experimentalist & ace songwriter and you get @calamateur. Add Steve and the results could go anywhere. Fortunately they don't.
@MikeKSmith - ...at least not on THIS track.
@MikeKSmith - So good I had to make a musical response. soundcloud.com/mikeksmith/not-very-long
Live in Nebraska - I’m lost
@DancingMonk - with music this good, of course I'll help
@MikeKSmith - @Lobelia and Steve's lines complement each other perfectly here. And for once Steve doesn't fall too far off the rails in the solo...
Behind Every word - Scott Peck
@DancingMonk - This is too lovely to say anything meaningful about it without sounding crass
@MikeKSmith - <this space intentionally blank>
For the Love of Open Spaces - Lovely
@DancingMonk - Ambient noodly bass with mellifluous sax over the top- what more could you want
@MikeKSmith - How can something this beautiful come out of nowhere? It's not natural. Perfect.
Invenzioni - A Beautiful Mind
@DancingMonk - If I had a mind this carefree I wouldn't have any problems
@MikeKSmith - The thing about these tunes is that who plays what is irrelevant. The result is always coherent and above all musical.
Slow Food - Grown-ups at play
@DancingMonk - Plinky, plunky, tumbling joy over deep bass. They're 'aving a larf
@MikeKSmith - Slow Food was never on heavy rotation with me. But this isn't instant gratification junk food music. Take your time. Enjoy. Appreciate.
Live so far - A meeting of minds
@DancingMonk - if you think this is good you should hear Hidden Windows - that was too long for the compilation
@MikeKSmith - More alchemy as Steve and Neil Alexander (@nailmusic) combine to give us something way more precious than the individual elements.
Conversations - Closing Statement / First Sight
@DancingMonk - truly a great conversation with both parties listening
@MikeKSmith - Starts off in one direction yet finishes somewhere completely different. Tension to resolution.
@MikeKSmith - ...and more endings than Lord of the Rings "Return of the King".