Zero Sum World is the second solo release from guitarist and composer Ant Law and his first for Whirlwind Recordings. A resident in London since 2008, Law regularly performs with Tim Garland, Jason Rebello, Mica Paris, Gwilym Simcock, Leon Ware, Asaf Sirkis, Koby Israelite, Camille O’ Sullivan and is known as a pioneer in the ’Perfect Fourths’ tuning system for guitarists. He is a published author on the subject and his book 3rd Millenium Guitar is currently available from Mel Bay.
The music on his new release was recorded immediately after an extensive 29 date UK tour and a brief sojourn to Brazil where Law finished the writing in two parts. After returning to the UK he received support from the Jazz Services touring scheme and embarked on yet another large tour (this time 27-dates) around the UK and went straight into the studio to record. His band features four guiding lights in British contemporary music: Ivo Neame (piano), James Maddren (drums), Michael Chillingworth (multiple reeds) and Tom Farmer(bass). Each musician turns out stellar performances on the record and are given ample room within Law’s compositions to shine.
Zero Sum World showcases an eclectic mish-mash of influences from musics around the world, but it’s Law’s thematic writing and playing that binds its eleven tracks together into one uniform statement. No doubt the amount of touring the band has done over the last two years comes into play in the overall presentation and tightness of Ant’s often tricky and rhythmically shifting compositions. Both Neame and Chillingworth improvise with aplomb while Maddren’s considered touch flows like water through even the most complicated corners of Law’s tunes.
The title comes from the “Zero Sum Game” in mathematics (Law himself was a scholar in Physics at Edinburgh University): when the total number of points belonging to the winner added to that of the loser equals zero. As such in a zero sum world no one can profit without someone else’s loss. The first track on the album shares this title and is followed by “Waltz” which explores more joyful territory. “Mishra Jathi” is a South-Indian rhythm etude given a western feel while two of the pieces “Leafcutter” and “Symbiosis 14:21:34” were compositionally derived from multiple rhythms coexisting, as with symbiosis in biology. The longest piece “Monument” is Law’s tribute to the world renown guitarist Ben Monder with whom he has studied. “Triviophobia” is about taking things too seriously, in particular the arts, and especially music. The album closes out with a contemporary blues and some alternate tuning by Farmer (who turns out some spectacular bass work on the album). Every track features Law’s guitar tuned in perfect 4ths which lends itself to unique harmony.