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Catching Up With

Ben Williams: The Effect of Sound

By Published: August 23, 2012
BW: Christian recommended me for a few trio dates last year (Pat had actually heard me play for the first time at Juilliard in 2007 per McBride's invitation). A few months later I got a call from Pat about a "special" band he wanted to put together that would include myself, Antonio Sanchez
Antonio Sanchez
Antonio Sanchez
, and Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
. Of course I was ecstatic at the opportunity to play and record with such an incredible band.

AAJ: The lockup between you and Sanchez is particularly strong on this record. Had you played with him in a previous project and what it is, as a bassist, which makes Antonio's drumming particularly unique or receptive to play with?

BW: Me and Antonio had played together on several occasions with other projects and also during the few trio dates I did with Pat, but we hadn't played much together before this recording. Even so, playing with Antonio is very easy from a bassist's perspective. He has everything you could ask for in a drummer; deep groove, incredible clarity, and a great sense of orchestration. From the very beginning our hookup was effortless.

AAJ: The other thing is this is Pat's first "traditional" setup in a while, after doing a lot of meticulously arranged work. Was a lot of the music very specific and micro-arranged or was it more on the side of a "read the chart down" session?

BW: The music Pat brought in for this band was definitely less involved compared to a lot of his more recent works, specifically the Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
. The charts were pretty straightforward, not super-arranged at all. Our challenge however was to bring these tunes to life and really figure out how to shape each arrangement. There was room for interpretation on our part for sure and we continue the process of improving each tune while touring.

AAJ: Were there any special considerations in walking/comping when it comes to some of the record's extended stuff like the Orchestrion instruments, the synths or even just the Spanish guitar?

BW: The extended pieces (namely the Orchestrion) left me with lots of freedom. I basically had to create my own bass "part" for that material. I really enjoyed the challenge of not really having anything specific to play but to use my musical instinct to come up with something that would best fit with what was going on. Combining that element of almost free improvisation with a semi-structured thing such as the Orchestrion created many interesting possibilities.

AAJ: How does it feel being next in the same lineage of great bassists like Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1951 - 1987
bass, electric
up through Scott Colley
Scott Colley
Scott Colley
in terms of being part of Metheny's work?

BW: That's interesting that you brought that up because it something I think about a lot with playing with Pat. It's almost scary to think about the caliber of bassists that have worked with Pat! The bass chair, in his various groups, has been occupied by many legends of the instrument and it is a true honor to follow in that lineage. It makes this opportunity to work with Pat that much more special knowing he's worked with so many bass masters

AAJ: What aspects of playing with the Unity Band were particularly gratifying and/or what has stuck with you in the recording process?

BW: Working with the Unity Band has been a tremendous joy. Everyone in the band plays at such a high level. It is inspiring just hearing them play night after night. I was well aware of how great Pat, Chris, and Antonio were, but working with them closely showed me just how great they really are. This project was particularly special because the material was new to everyone in the band (including Pat!) so it was great to see the creative process with these guys. We all put forth a lot of effort into making this record very special. I think it came out great, especially considering the fact that we hadn't played much together as a quartet before recording.

Selected Discography

Pat Metheny, Unity Band (Nonesuch, 2012)
Ben Williams, State of Art (Concord, 2011)
Jacky Terrasson, Push (Concord, 2010)
Marcus Strickland, Of Song (Criss Cross, 2009)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Courtesy of Fully Altered Media

Page 2: Jimmy Katz

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