BEN WILLIAMS, STATE OF ART


At 26, bassist Ben Williams makes a successful debut with “State Of Art” (Concord Jazz) that shows off his strong compositional chops – 5 tunes are originals - and his arranging skills covering tunes by Stevie Wonder (“Part Time Lover”) and Michael Jackson. But mostly the vibe he’s feeling on this likeable album is modern day soul-jazz and contemporary R&B with a touch of hip-hop. Williams is a conscientious player and a gifted musician. He brings a Go-Go beat to Woody Shaw’s “Moontrane,” inserts a rap track featuring label mate Christian Scott that schools those who need it on the importance of trumpeter Lee Morgan, and reworks the closing standard, “Moonlight In Vermont” like a Prince-like signature ballad.

Williams won first prize in the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Competition for double bass and he’s been a band member with vibraphonist Stefon Harris & Blackout, so he knows his stuff. His ace crew here can play and they sharpen Williams’ edge. Marcus Strickland’s slippery saxophone, the profoundly soulful solos by keyboardist and pianist Gerald Clayton and the propulsive thump and shimmering cymbal work by drummer Jamire Williams all sit just right. Run through these tunes a few times and you might be asking, who makes music cooler than Ben Williams? (11 tracks; 61:50 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: BEN WILLIAMS, STATE OF ART

Sunday, September 11, 2011

BEN WILLIAMS, STATE OF ART


At 26, bassist Ben Williams makes a successful debut with “State Of Art” (Concord Jazz) that shows off his strong compositional chops – 5 tunes are originals - and his arranging skills covering tunes by Stevie Wonder (“Part Time Lover”) and Michael Jackson. But mostly the vibe he’s feeling on this likeable album is modern day soul-jazz and contemporary R&B with a touch of hip-hop. Williams is a conscientious player and a gifted musician. He brings a Go-Go beat to Woody Shaw’s “Moontrane,” inserts a rap track featuring label mate Christian Scott that schools those who need it on the importance of trumpeter Lee Morgan, and reworks the closing standard, “Moonlight In Vermont” like a Prince-like signature ballad.

Williams won first prize in the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Competition for double bass and he’s been a band member with vibraphonist Stefon Harris & Blackout, so he knows his stuff. His ace crew here can play and they sharpen Williams’ edge. Marcus Strickland’s slippery saxophone, the profoundly soulful solos by keyboardist and pianist Gerald Clayton and the propulsive thump and shimmering cymbal work by drummer Jamire Williams all sit just right. Run through these tunes a few times and you might be asking, who makes music cooler than Ben Williams? (11 tracks; 61:50 minutes)

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