The catch-all term "playing time" is often used as a descriptor for drummers that find a steady, supportive pattern and play it ad infinitum, whether to the benefit or detriment of a band, but that definition has always been limiting. Drummer Jeff Williams, for example, has and plays impeccable time, but he paints around the lines and shifts patterns to accent and highlight what's happening in the music at any given moment. He's the rare drummer who understands and conceptualizes time as something beyond the standard "spang-a-lang" status quo, and this ideal comes to the fore with Another Time
While Williams has been an important voice on the jazz scene for four decades, he's always managed to stay slightly under the radar because his credits have often marked him as a supporting player rather than a leader. Williams secured his place in jazz history as a founding member of the far-reaching band Lookout Farm in the early '70s, and racked up an impressive list of sideman credits in the decades that followed. He has constantly been called upon to provide backing for left-leaning artists-in-the-know, like fellow Lookout Farm members Dave Liebman
and Richie Beirach
, pianist Richard Sussman
, the legendary Lee Konitz
, and saxophonist Bill McHenry
, but Williams has only stepped out on his own on relatively few occasions over the past two decades.
For this, the first record released under his name in the new millennium, Williams brought together a piano-less quartet that occasionally leans on the sound of early Ornette Coleman
("Search Me"), but isn't handcuffed to any single influence. Williams penned five of the eight pieces on the album, with each of his band mates contributing one song each to round out the program, and he brings different artistic elements into the mix on each number. "Fez" marries Coleman's ideals with Middle Eastern soundsa la John Zorn
and the title track begins without drums, with some buzzing arco work from bassist John Hébert
underscoring the horn lines of trumpeter Duane Eubanks
and alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher
. Elsewhere, Williams shifts the sands of time from slow and dirge-like to spirited and snappy ("Purple, Blue And Red"), shines a spotlight on Hébert sans band ("She Can't Be A Spy"), and gives plenty of solo space to the fine horn players he employs.
While Another Time
is another clear indicator of Williams' drumming talents, it also serves as a fine display of his skills as a composer. One can only hope that he doesn't wait so long to release his next disc.
Personnel: Jeff Williams: drums; Duane Eubanks: trumpet; John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; John Hébert: bass.