BEN WILLIAMS: LIVE AT THE JAZZ STANDARD

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In performance: Ben Williams and Sound Effect, New York City, January 30, 2013

A recent business trip coincided with a remarkable week of jazz performances in New York City, coincidentally all taking place at the illustrious Jazz Standard, a room with pitch perfect sound and an award winning menu (courtesy of Blue Smoke, the exceptional BBQ restaurant located one flight up.) The club's gracious host, the musician and bassist Rob Duguay, smoothly takes charge to guide you to the best seat available (and there are no bad seats at this club; only delicious food.) BTW, Rob's got a new album out called Sea Dream Blues. Check it out: www.robduguay.com

On Sunday, January 27, I caught the last set from a multi-night run by pianist Vijay Iyer and his trio, playing tracks from their recent albums, Accelerando and Historicity. With bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore (Roy Hayne’s grandson) on board, saying they “play” is a disservice to their skill and amazing gift for improvising. Rightly celebrated, Iyer's set combined tunes by Herbie Nichols, Julius Hemphill, John Coltrane (a compelling spectral glance at "Giant Steps") and a take on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," which contorted the melody and pleasingly turned its familiar melody inside out. Another night celebrated the new CD from Patricia Barber (reviewed in the February issue of ICON) and although she remains a unique artist prone to verbal non-sequiturs from the stage while playing in her bare feet, her set wobbled from introspection to audience-challenging sonics.

photo courtesy of Todd Williams
The most engaging gig was from bassist Ben Williams, winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition, who at 28 is already a consummate professional and bandleader. His group, Sound Effect, is still touring in support of Williams' debut release, State of Art (Concord Jazz, 2011) and their interplay and on stage chemistry is both endearing and electrifying. With Marcus Strickland on saxophone, Alex Wintz on guitar, drummer John Davis and the up and comer, pianist Christian Sands, Williams eclectic playlist pulled tunes from the album (Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover" is a highlight) as well as Michael Jackson (the underplayed "Little Susie") and R&B singer, Goapele. Williams is steeped in all styles, gently weaving Charlie Haden-like phrases during his intros or contrasting classical measures with soulful top notes. Strickland is a fine soloist who runs intricate lines, a leader in his own right, and his role here sounded designed to pump the audience up. He tore things up on soprano sax, tipping his hat to Grover Washington, Jr here and there, while the wonder kid, Christian Sands, got the crowd keyed up with ferocious piano playing and whomping Rhodes solos -- often evoking McCoy Tyner with his approach to the keys, a fleet combination of elegance and deep soul. He's only 22. 

photo courtesy of Todd Williams
The band called up James Brown on "Mr. Dynamite" and previewed a track from Williams’ upcoming album called "Cover Art" as a member of the ad hoc band Next Collective, primed with today's shining young jazz stars (review forthcoming.) “Fly Or Die,” a track by Pharrell Williams (no relation) and N.E.R.D., is arranged by Williams to give the band plenty of soloing space and features a simple, very cool refrain. Watching him play so well that night, I think everyone who was there saw Ben Williams as an ace bassist with an entire, fruitful career ahead of him. He recently won a Grammy® for his role in Pat Metheny's Unity Band (a second album is in the works.) His performance and confidence assure us of great things to come. I'm in.
The Jazz Standard is located at 116 East 27th Street. Visit www.jazzstandard.net for details and calendar of upcoming performances.


 Here's the performance of Mr. Dynamite at the Jazz Standard. Video by Todd Williams

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JAZZ IN SPACE: BEN WILLIAMS: LIVE AT THE JAZZ STANDARD

Monday, February 25, 2013

BEN WILLIAMS: LIVE AT THE JAZZ STANDARD

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In performance: Ben Williams and Sound Effect, New York City, January 30, 2013

A recent business trip coincided with a remarkable week of jazz performances in New York City, coincidentally all taking place at the illustrious Jazz Standard, a room with pitch perfect sound and an award winning menu (courtesy of Blue Smoke, the exceptional BBQ restaurant located one flight up.) The club's gracious host, the musician and bassist Rob Duguay, smoothly takes charge to guide you to the best seat available (and there are no bad seats at this club; only delicious food.) BTW, Rob's got a new album out called Sea Dream Blues. Check it out: www.robduguay.com

On Sunday, January 27, I caught the last set from a multi-night run by pianist Vijay Iyer and his trio, playing tracks from their recent albums, Accelerando and Historicity. With bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore (Roy Hayne’s grandson) on board, saying they “play” is a disservice to their skill and amazing gift for improvising. Rightly celebrated, Iyer's set combined tunes by Herbie Nichols, Julius Hemphill, John Coltrane (a compelling spectral glance at "Giant Steps") and a take on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," which contorted the melody and pleasingly turned its familiar melody inside out. Another night celebrated the new CD from Patricia Barber (reviewed in the February issue of ICON) and although she remains a unique artist prone to verbal non-sequiturs from the stage while playing in her bare feet, her set wobbled from introspection to audience-challenging sonics.

photo courtesy of Todd Williams
The most engaging gig was from bassist Ben Williams, winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition, who at 28 is already a consummate professional and bandleader. His group, Sound Effect, is still touring in support of Williams' debut release, State of Art (Concord Jazz, 2011) and their interplay and on stage chemistry is both endearing and electrifying. With Marcus Strickland on saxophone, Alex Wintz on guitar, drummer John Davis and the up and comer, pianist Christian Sands, Williams eclectic playlist pulled tunes from the album (Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover" is a highlight) as well as Michael Jackson (the underplayed "Little Susie") and R&B singer, Goapele. Williams is steeped in all styles, gently weaving Charlie Haden-like phrases during his intros or contrasting classical measures with soulful top notes. Strickland is a fine soloist who runs intricate lines, a leader in his own right, and his role here sounded designed to pump the audience up. He tore things up on soprano sax, tipping his hat to Grover Washington, Jr here and there, while the wonder kid, Christian Sands, got the crowd keyed up with ferocious piano playing and whomping Rhodes solos -- often evoking McCoy Tyner with his approach to the keys, a fleet combination of elegance and deep soul. He's only 22. 

photo courtesy of Todd Williams
The band called up James Brown on "Mr. Dynamite" and previewed a track from Williams’ upcoming album called "Cover Art" as a member of the ad hoc band Next Collective, primed with today's shining young jazz stars (review forthcoming.) “Fly Or Die,” a track by Pharrell Williams (no relation) and N.E.R.D., is arranged by Williams to give the band plenty of soloing space and features a simple, very cool refrain. Watching him play so well that night, I think everyone who was there saw Ben Williams as an ace bassist with an entire, fruitful career ahead of him. He recently won a Grammy® for his role in Pat Metheny's Unity Band (a second album is in the works.) His performance and confidence assure us of great things to come. I'm in.
The Jazz Standard is located at 116 East 27th Street. Visit www.jazzstandard.net for details and calendar of upcoming performances.


 Here's the performance of Mr. Dynamite at the Jazz Standard. Video by Todd Williams

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

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