If you have never heard of Gareth Williams, he is a quiet piano master who enjoys a bigger reputation with fellow musicians than with the public. A founder member and MD of the Nineties jazz-hiphop band Us3, and a former accompanist for the singer Claire Martin, he has worked at the highest level for 30 years, mainly in London. But London is a city blessed with many international quality jazz pianists, and Williams has faced formidable competition during his career. On the evidence of this album alone, he can hold his head high amongst them.
Short Stories consists largely of his own compositions, plus solo piano renditions of the ballads "Who Can I Turn To?" and "Too Young to Go Steady," with the latter featuring Williams' rather staccato vocal.
The drummer throughout the album, which was recorded in 2019, is Martin France, and the bass chair is shared between veterans Chris Laurence and Palle Danielssonboth of them legends in their own right. The latter, who plays on four of the 12 tracks, worked with Keith Jarrett in the late '70s, and has that uncanny ability, so vital in a trio, to lock into the mind of the pianist and anticipate what he is going to do next. This is nowhere more evident than on the opener, "Not Bossa," which begins and ends out of time, the middle section picking up a subtle Latin rhythm.
There is a certain austerity in some of Williams' playing, a bright, cool, almost classical detachment. On the ballads and on the tracks "For Palle" and "Short Story," he reveals a more lyrical side, while "Buster Keaton" begins with pentatonic openness before the crazy clatter of France's drums indicates the sort of physical scrapes the Great Stone Face so often got himself into on screen.
Not Bossa; Unwritten Hymn; Derivatives; Mr JT; Who Can I Turn To?; Buster Keaton; islands of Men; Another Waltz; One More Blues; For
Palle; Short Story; Too Young to Go Steady
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