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Arthur Williams: Forgiveness Suite

John Sharpe By

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Forgiveness Suite belatedly constitutes trumpeter Arthur Williams' first leadership date. A mysterious and troubled soul who flew below the radar, even within free jazz circles, Williams surfaced on a handful of albums in the 1970s and 80s before dropping from view not long after. His most notable appearances are documented on saxophonist Frank Lowe's Lowe And Behold (Musicworks, 1977) Jemeel Moondoc's Muntu Recordings (2009), William Parker's Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (2012) box set and Peter Kuhn's Livin' Right, reissued as part of No Coming, No Going: The Music Of Peter Kuhn, 1978-79 (NoBusiness Records, 2016). However a glimpse of Williams can be obtained from a 1973 concert with legendary drummer Milford Graves (at 18-minutes in).

In fact this date, issued as a limited edition LP forms a companion piece to Kuhn's reissue, as it was recorded for the same WKCR radio broadcast by the same line up. It's a continuous 30-minute performance spread across the two sides. Even though the ensembles seem hesitant at times, it nonetheless contains some fascinating playing and is well worth hearing as an important addition to a slender discography. Williams boasts a distinctive style, contrasting a legato stream of half valve effects, slurs and growls with shorter repeated phrases derived from his themes, heightened by explosive cries and hollers.

The piece proceeds as a series of unisons interspersed with freer conversational interplay, and it's in the latter that the meat of the session resides. On the first side bassist William Parker's atmospheric arco sawing combines well, initially with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo's muttering, moaning textures, and then later with Kuhn's whinnying bass clarinet. Kuhn even blends horn and voice for a passage of gritty speaking in tongues which represents one of the earliest examples of what has become a more widespread technique. Drummer Denis Charles fuels pungent group polyphony on the second side, before opening into an exuberant drum solo which pits punchy figures against his accented bass drum rumble.

It must have been a treat to hear such dramatic sounds emanating from the radio.

Track Listing: Forgiveness Suite part I; Forgiveness Suite part II.

Personnel: Arthur Williams: trumpet; Toshinori Kondo: trumpet; Peter Kuhn: tenor saxophone; William Parker: bass; Denis Charles: drums.

Title: Forgiveness Suite | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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