The Lilly’s Pad was low-key but very much alive with Rohn Lawrence and Friends lighting up the intimate venue as they do every Monday night. The venue, found above Toad’s Place in New Haven is the epitome of a jazz lounge; soft lighting, a few tables and sectional couches lining the walls of the room, drinks in hand and people enjoying a relaxing night of incredible music
Lawrence on guitar, Jay Rowe on keys and Trever Somerville on drums brought a huge sound to the small venue that captured the whole audience. It was a diverse crowd, a few students, a family or two, some regulars and good friends of the band members, and they loved every second of the show.
Smooth yes, but just jazz? No. This was a night of everything smooth: jazz, funk, blues, soul. They had it and mastered it all.
All of these genres require one to pour plenty of emotion and feeling into the songs and everyone on stage was obviously lost in their sound. Lawrence was perched on a stool for the night but by no means was he stagnant. Every note he hit was an emotional decision and you could see it in his face. His eyes shut, head rolling and bobbing on his shoulders and body twisting.
Somerville was in the same seated predicament but that didn’t stop him from moving around in his throne and pumping out some intriguing and driving grooves off of his four piece set. He was tight, technical throughout the whole night and brought a big sound from the tiny set.
Rowe was just as into it as the others while managing to play bass on his upper board and mess around with his lower synthesizer to add a unique color to the already gripping performance. All of the band members were working double time like Rowe, with Lawrence singing and working a plethora of pedals below him and Somervillie accompanying the band with backup vocals.
The night started out with an energetic piece “This Is Where You Belong” off his second album Hangin’ On a String. It instantly drew the crowd in from the bar with Lawrence’s unique guitar tone and the intricate drumming from Somerville. It had a very jazzy tone to it but managed to be fairly aggressive and that was very prominent when Rohn soloed. One could even say it he was shredding away, not an adjective associated with smooth jazz. The night continued with a variety of smooth tones and took a shift when Rohn introduced his guest star, Wallace Gary.
Lawrence brings on a guest musician every Monday, and this week the venue was treated to a very emotional Gary who fit the sound of Rohn and friends flawlessly. With his bright red leather jacket and acid wash jeans, Gary brought more than one type of color to the stage. His voice was very fitting and diverse, singing a few covers from Chaka Kahn’s “Tell Me Something Good” to Prince’s “Kiss” and absolutely nailing every note.
The four of them made for a unique, powerhouse team that had everyone in awe at the unexpectedly big sound from a small band in an even smaller room. Rohn Lawrence and Friends play every Monday night for five bucks at the door and is definitely a friendly and inviting place for anyone to try once.