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Jeff Williams: Bloom (Whirlwind)

A review of the drummer's album featuring Carmen Staaf and Michael Formanek

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Jeff Williams, Bloom
The cover of Bloom by Jeff Williams

Listening to Bloom reminds me of my first encounters with Ralph Peterson’s Triangular. Both records are drummer-led trio affairs, with an upcoming pianist busting moves that wax communal while stealing the show a bit. JazzTimes readers probably recall the pianist on Peterson’s 1989 jewel: Geri Allen. Carmen Staaf fans, a growth demographic, will be happy to learn that this engaging session is where their hero shines bright. Throughout a scad of breezy arrangements, Staaf continuously elevates the music while bolstering the offhand intricacies of her mates, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer/leader Jeff Williams.

One of freebop’s beauties is the way it can wiggle toward either side of its equation at a moment’s notice. Williams encourages his team to run with this notion, making agility job one here. Agility and momentum, I should say. The drummer has a way of spinning his phrases into a web of propulsion that delivers opportunities for Formanek and Staaf, whose lines splash and course like a valley stream overflowing from a winter snow melt. On “A Word Edgewise,” the trio heeds the theme while toying with its stretching points. The rhythm section is all about leeway, and Staaf dazzles by turning a series of discrete flurries into a keenly architected solo.

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Jim Macnie

Jim Macnie is a music writer who contributes to DownBeat and blogs at Lament For a Straight Line. He’s been working in digital media since since 2000, initially as VH1.com’s Managing Editor and, currently, as a Senior Producer and Editor at Vevo. He enjoys Little Jimmie Dickens, Big Joe Turner and Medium Medium.