Truth and Actuality
Each member of this trio has excelled at the often-delicate task of supporting quirky, headstrong vocalists. Drummer Steve Williams spent years outlining the shadows of Shirley Horn’s capacious interpretations. Bassist Harvie S will always have his numerous duet projects with the redoubtable Sheila Jordan near the top of his résumé. And while pianist James Weidman is probably now best known for his membership in Joe Lovano’s Us Five, he also built a reputation supporting singers ranging from Abbey Lincoln to Kevin Mahogany to Cassandra Wilson.
In other words, this is an ensemble laden with big ears and acutely reactive instincts. But Weidman wanted to see what would transpire without the yoke of a dominant vocalist. He composed six of the eight songs on Truth and Actuality, all but one specifically for this date, and they contain a relaxed urbanity that invites subtle panache from a rhythm section.
The biggest revelation in this regard comes from Williams, who is combustible and foreboding on the more uptempo numbers such as “Dance of the Macrocosmic People” and “Time to Make a Move.” In the liner notes, Harvie S correctly likens his approach to that of Elvin Jones.
Likewise, while Harvie S has never been a shrinking violet, it is a treat to hear him carry the lead in a trio setting on his lone composition, “Courage.” As for Weidman, he flows like a springtime river around and through these effusions. His writing is superb—“Homily for Pastor B” is characterized by the sort of easygoing, openhearted assurance you’d want from a man of the cloth, while the episodic title song, with Harvie S featured in one section on arco, is more ambitious and complex. This is ultimately an unhurried mainstream session. But muscles are flexed in a manner that is more appealing than outlandish.