Across a career spanning four decades, it would seem easiest to consider the musicians with whom Jeff Williams hasn’t worked. A respected stalwart of the international jazz circuit, the American drummer has notably rubbed shoulders with Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, John Abercrombie and Joe Lovano.
Williams has graced innumerable New York and London stages over the years, making frequent Atlantic crossings between the two cities. In his latest solo project, the accomplished band leader and composer collaborates with both seasoned and up-and-coming colleagues from the UK: Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (keys) and Sam Lasserson (basses). This engaging album of originals prompts a dynamic quintet response to a variety of energized compositions.
His third album for Whirlwind (following 2011’s Another Time and 2013’s The Listener), Williams’ Outlier combines previously unrecorded works from the ‘70s and ‘80s – such as the driving, fusion-laced ‘Dream Visitor’ and Brazilian-hued ‘Hermeto’ (after Hermeto Pascoal) – with more recent, equally assertive compositions. As an experienced leader at the kit with an instinctive, deeply-imbued jazz sensibility, Williams coaxes intelligent, colorful interplay from his colleagues. As Jeff confirms: “It always astonishes me what these guys – leaders in their own right – bring to the music that I write. They find things I didn’t even know existed.”
The scope of this imaginative working band ranges from the smouldering, Joe Henderson-influenced oscillations of the title track ‘Outlier’ to the relentless ‘Oddity,’ which swings with unbridled vitality. The straight forward beauty of ‘New and Old’ recalls poignant memories with tender detail. Also a pianist, adding Rhodes to this album, Williams describes ‘Meeting a Stranger’ as “one of those rare tunes that came out whole”. Possessing a wide brashness, ‘The Interloper’ exudes a joyful, Monkish abandon.
Like all masters of a genre, Jeff Williams has profoundly internalized the traditions of jazz without being tyrannized by its conventions. Combining his influences and broad experience to form his own unique voice, he refuses to constrain himself to a single stylistic approach. Most vitally, he wants his audience to respond to his music emotionally: “It’s my continued vision – my aim to offer something that’s universal but also personal, and which might transport the listener into a realm that’s pleasurable and thought-provoking. It’s important to me that, within the construction of the music, there’s a feeling and a warmth to be discovered.”
Jeff Williams - drums, percussion, Fender rhodes
Josh Arcoleo - tenor saxophone
Phil Robson - guitar
Kit Downes - piano and Fender rhodes
Sam Lasserson - double & electric basses
Recorded 13 & 14 April, 2015 at Fish Factory Studio, London
Engineered by Benedic Lamdin and Alex Bonney
Mixed by Alex Bonney and Jeff Williams, London
Mastered by Max Ross, Systems Two, NY
Produced by Jeff Williams
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
2. The Interloper
3. Dream Visitor
4. Meeting a Stranger
5. New and Old
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