All great jazz essentially tells the same story: "This is what it's like to be alive, right here, right now. First-call bass vet Buster Williams' latest disc, Griot Libertè, while no exception, tells an additional one: he loves his wife. Using her recovery from a serious illness as a jumping off point, Williams leads a crack quartet with vibraphonist Stefon Harris, pianist George Colligan, and drummer Lenny White through a post bop program of six excellent self-penned originals and two standards: Cole Porter's atypical "Everytime We Say Goodbye (reharmonized) and Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez, which Williams tackles (beautifully) as a solo on piccolo bass.
Brimming with tender reflection while somehow not in the least bit sentimental, it's a lovely record from the word go. Williams, who's played with just about every jazz legend you can name since he turned pro in 1959, is as rock solid a bassist as they come, and from the from the disc's very first bowed note you know you're in good hands. The band is fully alert yet wonderfully relaxedthese guys sound as if they've been playing together for a decade, and in some respects they have: White has been Williams' preferred drummer since 1996; Harris has waxed two previous discs under Williams' leadership; and Colligan's association with Williams precedes the pianist's relocation to Manhattan in 1995.
With a band this strong, Williams can afford to be generous, and he is; everyone gets a chance to shine, and no one disappoints. There are too many fine moments on the disc to relate, but some standouts include the dusky modal opener "Nomad, Williams' gorgeous solo on the lyrical "Triumphant Dance of the Butterfly, Harris' delicate handling of Porter's melody on "Everytime We Say Goodbye, and the aforementioned "Concierto de Aranjuez. Press play, turn down the lights, breathe deep, and enjoy the ride.
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