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The Willie Williams Trio: Comet Ride

Dan McClenaghan By

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The opening and title track of Willie Williams' Comet Ride really does blaze out of the speakers like visitor from the outer reaches of the solar system. Williams' searing tenor wails; trailing a fiery tail of sax, splashing cymbals and loping bass lines. And though the trio configuration—sax/bass/drums, without a chording instrument—suggests a free outing, the sound here maintains an accessible melodic structure, even when it's cranked-up into an approaching-the-sun velocity.

"Tenor Ballet" slows things down to a dirge level. The tune begins with Williams blowing long, eerie notes in front of Gary Wang's bowed bass for a beautifully pensive affair, with Wang and Williams conversing in deep and intimate tones.

Eight of the ten offerings here are from Williams' pen, with Ellington's "Caravan" closing the set, and "Freedom Suite"—not to be confused with Sonny Rollins' like-titled 1958 tune of the same name—serving as the centerpiece. Williams' "Freedom Suite" is medley of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance" and Jimmy Heath's "Gingerbread Boy" and "CTA," a deft combination of the tunes that proves a churning, hard-charging fifteen minutes of in-your-face jazz.

"Caravan," with the rarely-heard vocal bridge, is dominated by a smooth, layered flow of African rhythms supplied by drummer Rudy Walker, behind Williams impassioned blowing.

Williams, whose highest profile thus far comes from his work with drummer T.S Monk, blows hard, with big lungs like Sonny Rollins or Dexter Gordon. Comet Ride is a fine introduction to his saxophone artistry.

Track Listing: Comet Ride; Tenor Ballet; I'm Misunderstood; Three Generations; Leprechaun;s Dance; Changes of Heart; Freedom Suite: Freedom Jazz Dance, Gingerbread Boy, C.T.A, Freedom Jazz Dance Reprise; Mo' Grits; Philly Syndrome; Caravan.

Personnel: Willie Williams: tenor and soprano saxes; Gary Wang: bass; Rudy Walker: drums.

Title: Comet Ride | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Miles High Records


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