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Thursday, March 03, 2016

CD Review: Jeff Williams – Outlier

Jeff Williams (drums, percussion & Fender Rhodes), Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (piano & Fender Rhodes) & Sam Lasserson (double & electric basses)
(Review by Russell)
Outlier is Jeff Williams’ third release as leader on the Whirlwind Recordings label. All of the compositions are by the bandleader.  Williams is the one fifth American in this Anglo -American quintet. The four sidemen are in demand individuals leading bands or working in others’ outfits and stacking up recording credits along the way. This 2015 recording on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label is released next week with a clutch of gigs beginning on Sunday (March 6) at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.
Outlier, the eponymous opening track, simmers and swirls with Phil Robson’s guitar solo giving way to Kit Downes’ Fender Rhodes as Josh Arcoleo’s taut, writhing tenor rides on top of Williams’ constantly shifting cymbal work. Robson returns, Downes’ chords direct the ensemble with bassist Sam Lasserson right there.
Jeff Williams reveals The Interloper ‘Reminds me of Thelonious Monk.’ It is a danceable Pork Pie of a tune, without a doubt. The drummer’s forward motion, the pianist’s angular, swinging logic, Monk Lives!
Williams refers to rhythmic patterns, visual images and dream world inspirations. Dream Visitor, the composer suggests, owes something to electric Miles; Fender Rhodes feature, Lasserson plays electric bass but the tune takes on its own distinctive character. Williams makes candid personal statements in the CDs liner notes: Meeting a Stranger followed by New and Old are markedly different to the earlier pieces. Ballad-like, the former heard on the album Jazzblues, reworked on Outlier because, as the composer writes: they interpret it so beautifully, the latter number refers to his father’s illness and their relationship - new and old, child and father, the role of the carer, their changing roles. 
Hermeto expresses Williams’ love of the music of Hermeto Pascoal. The drummer heard, then met the Brazilian in the 1980s (Pascoal toured Britain at around this time including a concert at Durham University). This tune is not an attempt to imitate his music; it’s more of a love letter. Great playing form the quintet on this one.
The set closer – Oddity – unleashes the bandleader. Seemed time for solo drums Williams writes, just for textural variation. Williams has assembled a talented band of musicians. It is to his credit that he has embraced their abilities making for an excellent recording.
Russell.                                                           
Jeff Williams’ Outlier is on Whirlwind Recordings WR 4684 with a release date of Friday, March 11.       

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