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Bebop Spoken There

Dayna Stephens: "I always tell them [students] there will never be anyone who will play it [EWI] as technically proficient as this cat [Michael Brecker] did." - (JazzTimes June 2019).

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Today Tuesday June 25

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Jam Session - Black Swan Bar, Newcastle Arts Centre, 59 Westgate Rd., Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel. 0191 222 9882. 8:00pm. Free. Trio Alan Law, Paul Grainger, John Bradford.

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

CD Review: Jeff Williams – Bloom


Jeff Williams (drums); Carmen Staaf (piano); Michael Formanek (double bass).
(Review by Hugh C)

Drummer Jeff Williams has played with some of the big names in jazz over the years.  Lately, he has been playing in saxophonist Dan Blake’s quartet with pianist Leo Genovese and bassist Dmitry Ishenko.  One time when Genovese was unavailable, Carmen Staaf stepped in.  Williams felt an immediate connection with her playing and they talked about the possibility of a trio.  He then ran into Formanek, with whom he had gigged in their early days in New York in the ‘70s.  The idea of this trio was formed and bloomed from thereon in – hence the album title.


All but one of eleven tracks on the album are composed by one or more of the members of the trio. The first track, Scattershot developed as they warmed up, getting their headphone mix together. This also warms up the listener for the ride ahead.  Another Time (Williams) takes us on at a slower tempo but with a definite progression, Staaf’s piano to the fore with a bass solo by Formanek where the other trio members draw back, but do not drop out.  Short Tune (Staaf) is more syncopated and in Williams’ words “has a certain quirkiness”, but carries the listener with it, waiting for the next surprise.  Short bass and drum solos intersperse the ensemble playing.  Scrunge starts in tricky 7/8 time, segueing seamlessly into Search Me; both tunes by Williams.

After the frenetic 7/8, calm is restored by Formanek’s Ballad of the Weak with space to appreciate the tonal qualities of the double bass in the extended solo.  New York Landing (Staaf) is a bluesy upbeat romp which will get even the most recalcitrant jazzer nodding their head in time to the music.  She Can’t Be a Spy (Williams) is apparently named after a New York Times piece: “She can’t be a spy – look what she did with the hydrangeas”. 

Air Dancing is the only track on the album not by one of the trio members.  Buster Williams passed the charts directly to Jeff Williams himself.  This is a beautiful slow number with atmospheric contributions from all three trio members.  A Word Edgewise (Formanek) features fast fingerwork by both bassist and pianist and pushes on at a pace towards Northwest (Williams) which has a more expansive groove and allows us a breather.  Staaf’s meditative, gamelan-like Chant, with fine arco bass by Formanek, brings the journey to a close.

This is a class album by class musicians.  There are no fireworks, but it is all quality.  Some of the tunes are older than others, being new piano trio rearrangements of earlier numbers, but as Jeff Williams quotes Thelonius Monk as saying when asked why he plays the same tunes all the time:  “I want people to hear them!”
Hugh C.
Bloom is on Whirlwind Recordings (WR4737) and is currently available.

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