In a way, All This Time is Lambert‘s way of coming out. Those who love him—this reviewer counts himself amongst them—have always suspected it. That’s right, Lambert isn’t quite who he seems. He is… whisper it… a jazz musician (gasp!)
If you’ll forgive an obvious pun, in fact the signs have been there all this time. His melodies have often used blue notes, his chord progressions are more inventive than the average neoclassical pianist, and if like this reviewer you’re lucky enough to have seen him perform live you will likely have witnessed him getting lost in a wonderfully playful jam with his drummer.
Moreover, while he’s more than capable of being serious, he clearly really identifies with one aspect of jazz: that of music as play. Between tracks he frequently cracks jokes or tells long shaggy dog stories, and he frequently makes the audience chuckle with an amusing gesture while playing. Watching him perform, you often get that part of the liberation he gets from the Sicilian mask he always wears is the freedom to be funny.
Coming out is a big step, as this reviewer knows from experience. On the one hand, you will unavoidably receive some negative responses, ranging from selfish to ignorant to flat out bigoted. On the other, there’s no denying that we humans are at our best when we’re true to ourselves. This album may not appeal to some of Lambert’s established fans, those who loved the dystopian melancholy of Sweet Apocalypse for example, but for others it will be an exhilarating revelation. Moreover, its release on the seminal jazz label Verve Records, home to records by Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, and Oscar Peterson etc, is a stamp of approval that’s sure to bring him a new pool of eager fans.
Lead single “Cry Me River” is ample proof that Lambert knows his way around a jazz standard, but it’ll surprise no-one that he’s also great at writing his own tunes. Opener “Bummel”, which roughly translates from the German as “wander” or “stroll”, is so catchy it could be a standard of the future, and the arrangement makes full use of the drums of Luca Marini and the bass of Felix Weigt plus Lambert’s electronics and grand piano. Lambert’s solo, beginning around 1:45, is electrifying. “Pants” sees him in a wistful mood, the synths giving it a bemused twist. The synth led “Positive Lambration” is great fun, Lambert at his most mischievous. Title track “All This Time” has a melancholy air; perhaps a sign of past regrets.
Back when he was 12, Lambert rebelled against his classical piano lessons and was sent to the seedy digs of a new teacher whose small apartment was dedicated wholly to jazz. Five years later, he was obsessed with Bill Evans. After a discouraging time at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, he tried to make his way as a jazz pianist in Berlin, but was too melodic for the city’s austere free improv scene and was summarily sacked by a band after making the crowd roar in approval in response to his solos. In the press release for All This Time he writes that during this period he “got a little lost” and was embarrassed by his jazz background, leading to his 2014 eponymous debut album being promoted as neoclassical. Now, eight albums later, he’s returning to his roots and, best of all, planning on touring the album with a Bill Evans Trio style line-up. If this album is anything to go by, those gigs are gonna be great fun. See you there! (Garreth Brooke)