Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ben Williams: Coming of Age

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Though he wrote much of his 2011 debut, State of Art, bassist Ben Williams’ new album, Coming of Age, is really his arrival as a composer. Nine of the disc’s 11 tunes are his, and they attempt (and accomplish) some tricky stuff. But he wraps these ideas in melodies made of short phrases-not to mention strong, funky grooves-that are easy to remember and impossible to resist.

“Strength and Beauty,” among the album’s best tunes, illustrates its crafts visible and latent. It’s so produced it feels at first like smooth jazz, with a theme of long guitar and tenor saxophone notes (courtesy of Matthew Stevens and Marcus Strickland, respectively). Even the rhythm section (Williams, pianist Christian Sands and drummer John Davis) is glossy. It takes some digging to hear first the funk waltz-an unusual concept in itself-then the density of the syncopation therein. Similarly, the heavy effects on Stevens’ short guitar solo can obscure how substantial it is, although there’s no escaping the meatiness of Williams’ tough-timbred bass solo. On the opposite path, the taut, wily soprano sax melody of “Forecast” leavens its demented salsa rhythm. The centerpiece, “Toy Soldiers,” is interpreted twice, as military march and hip-hop track; both are intoxicating.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published