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Jeff Williams: The Listener

C. Michael Bailey By

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It may be a poor-man's explanation, but here it goes: bebop begat hard bop begat the freer post-bop. Free jazz emerged among them. What next? Jeff Williams' The Listener. The greater freedom of post bop compared to its predecessor is given more freedom, but not so much that the music descends into the ravenous particles of John Coltrane In Japan (Impulse!, 1973).

So, where does that leave us?

Williams often programs solos against the bass alone or the bass and drums. The effect is like Ornette Coleman, circa early '60s, when Tomorrow Is The Question! (Atlantic, 1959) and The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959) were brand new and smoking. But Williams does not merely imitate, he shines the style to a high gleam to an almost blinding incandescence.

The Listener is not a simple throwback to Coleman in the way that the Black Crowes is to the Faces and Rolling Stones; rather, it is the acknowledgement and development of an idea after the white-heat of its creation has cooled. This music is a reconsideration employing a similar Coleman piano-less quartet, investigating the music fifty years later.

Recorded May 7, 2012 at London's Vortex Jazz Club, The Listener surveys seven originals (strangely, none composed by alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher) and a single, transformed standard, captured before an appreciative audience. The songs are live performance length, allowing plenty of solo space, even for bassist John Hébert, who gives a yeoman's effort in support. His playing is both exciting and splendid.

O'Gallagher and trumpeter Duane Eubanks give their level Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry best, often over Williams' cacophony of skins and cymbals. Given the exceptional sonics and the creative camaraderie, The Listener turns into an intellectually muscular listen with predictably positive results.

Track Listing: Beer And Water; Borderline; She Can't Be A Spy; Fez; Lament; Scrunge/Search Me; Slew Footed; Dedicated To You.

Personnel: Jeff Williams: drums; Duane Eubanks: trumpet; John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; John Hebert: bass.

Title: The Listener | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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