tue 09/08/2022

Album: Gareth Williams - Short Stories | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Gareth Williams - Short Stories

Album: Gareth Williams - Short Stories

A very fine trio album which bears repeated listening

Maybe it’s inevitable that their fate is to receive just a fraction of the recognition they deserve. Gareth Williams is one of the crop of truly remarkable  – and now fully-formed  – jazz pianists from the UK born in the years 1968 and 1969. I can think of three of them – there may be more.

So, to over-simplify radically: Liam Noble is the one who will always, without fail, take a listener off in a surprising direction, and do so again and again. Jason Rebello has the most naturally poetic touch and can overwhelm with the sheer beauty of his playing, and yet is also totally and instinctively supportive of singers in many guises. And Gareth Williams is the one who as an improviser has the deepest “constructor’s urge”. Every phrase, every voicing brings the certain knowledge that it will be used to develop an argument, a sense of story or flow, or is about to receive some kind of complete or partial echo. His playing always has rigour, and yet there is invariably also thoughtfulness and emotion.

Williams's first major professional engagement was as keyboard player/MD for jazz hip-hop band Us3. He later worked for a number of years as Music Director for Claire Martin, and has worked with a host of American jazz greats. His activities as leader have been more sporadic, and albums featuring him as leader are very rare, to say the least. The last one was Shock (Linn) with his “Power Trio of Laurence Cottle and Ian Thomas. That album was recorded in 2008, and it made several best-of lists in 2009. The new one is different, and not just because 13 years have passed since the previous release.

The initial spur to make the current recording was the possibility that Williams had to play with the great bass player Palle Danielsson, as the thorough and thoughtful liner note by John Fordham explains. The Swede was once part of the classic Jarrett/Garbarek quartet in the 1970s, and also in another seminal ECM grouping later: the trio with Peter Erskine and John Taylor. Williams describes the chance to play with Danielsson as being able to fulfil a desire to “explore intuitive, reactive playing.”

That collaboration is a joy to listen to, especially "For Palle" which stretches over seven minutes, but never outstays its welcome. From a beautifully expressive and free ‘colla voce’ opening, a core pulse emerges from somewhere among the three players, and then gradually the intensity starts to build. None of the three musicians overwhelms or disrupts, the whole vibe feels additive, collaborative – like the best trios.

There are moments for confidence and extraversion, especially the tune “One More Blues” one of several tracks which features the other bassist on this recording, one of the doyens of British bass playing Chris Laurence. The drummer who handles everything with finesse and discretion is Martin France. And there are moments where beauty and introversion take hold, notably the tune "Another Hymn" where the focus is on alternating resolution and quiet exploration.

I'm not sure yet about the slightly perfunctory vocal on the final track, "Too Young to Go Steady", but that quibble aside, Short Stories is a very fine album which definitely bears repeated listening.

@sebscotney

The whole vibe feels additive, collaborative – like the best trios

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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