Monday, June 4, 2018

THIS WEEK! Drummer/Composer CHRIS BECK Celebrates His Debut Album "THE JOURNEY" (A.W.M.C.) at SOUTH :: Wednesday, June 6 @ 7:30pm & 9pm

“Mr. Beck, a seasoned straight-ahead drummer, is about to release “The Journey,” his first album as a leader. This recording has lots of lateral range: There’s gospel-tinged balladry, standard-issue bebop and smart reworkings of mid-1960s Wayne Shorter classics (he covers “Mahjong” and laces a new melody into the structure of “Nefertiti”). Mr. Beck celebrates the new disc at this show, with Stacy Dillard on tenor saxophone, Anthony Wonsey on piano and Eric Wheeler on bass — all of whom played on the record — as well as Giveton Gelin on trumpet. – THE NY TIMES CRITICS’ PICK

“…full of rhythm… release, The Journey, Beck has given us a recording that honestly expresses his emotions and his respect for the straight-ahead jazz tradition.” – WBGO “Radar” feature

“With the release of his debut album, The Journey (which is schedule to release on May 18th), Chris Beck is making a name for himself on the New York scene as a hard-swinging, powerhouse drummer and composer. Beck’s refreshing and soulful vision as an artist is on full display, as is his unique ability to pay homage to the classic straight-ahead style of jazz while infusing elements of his African roots and Gospel upbringing.” – SNEEK CITY

“The hard hitting, swinging drummer picks the right time and place for his solo debut as he comes roaring out of the gate….On point and on the money throughout, this is a most impressive debut.” – MIDWEST JAZZ RECORD

CHRIS BECK // DRUMMER from Boat Safety Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 6, sets at 7:30PM & 9PM



Produced by legendary master drummer and mentor, Michael Carvin, Beck’s debut recording, The Journey (A.W.M.C. Records, May 18, 2018) meticulously showcases the nuanced composer and leader he is today. Following years of education under each of the masters, his sound is steeped in the long tradition of this music, while blending his unique vision with a fervent intensity.

The Journey serves as a “family gathering” of sorts, featuring some of the drummer’s best friends joining him in the studio (see video) and with whom he will share the bandstand in New York and Philly. Commemorating this momentous time for their brethren, all will be celebrating in New York City at Smalls Jazz Club on May 17th and in Philadelphia, PA at South on June 6, 2018.

With the release of his debut album, The Journey, Chris Beck is making a name for himself on the New York scene as a hard-swinging, powerhouse drummer and composer.

“He’s got the sensitivity, the power, the touch, the feel…great writer.” – STACY DILLARD

Honing his craft on the stage with Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid, Mulgrew Miller, Macy Gray, Oliver Lake, Charles Fambrough, Nicholas Payton, Tim Warfield, Bruce Barth, Mark Whitfield, David Murray and Wycliffe Gordon, among others. It is no wonder this young Philadelphian has made his place in NYC and the world as a premiere drummer not just in Jazz but in the art of Drumming.

“You feel a big hug before you even start.” – TERELL STAFFORD

The Philly native, born into a musical family and exposed to music from a young age, initially started on the trombone, but quickly moved to the drums, where he felt a natural fit. Steeped in the tradition of the musical legacies of his grandfather, the late Elder Charles Beck; his father, gospel producer Tony Beck; and encouraged by his high school music teacher – there was no question that Beck wanted to pursue a music career at Temple University. Even before graduating in 2004 with a BA in Music, Beck had already recorded two records with Temple University ensembles: Mean What You Say and Room 323, the title track of which is his original composition and was compared by All About Jazz magazine to a Thelonious Monk tune.

“True emotion, true understanding.” – ERIC WHEELER

Beck quickly became the “first call” drummer on the Philly jazz scene, working with the legendary Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Jr., Larry McKenna, the late Sid Simmons, and the late Stanley Wilson. While playing with these master musicians, Beck solidified his dedication to preserving the rich history of the straight-ahead style of jazz while starting to  make his mark, by infusing his own unique sound. In 2006, Beck moved to New York City to establish himself on the jazz scene. After settling in New York, he began studying with highly esteemed master drum teacher, Michael Carvin. In 2010, Beck graduated with a Master’s Degree in Music from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, where he studied with Victor Lewis.

“A gentle giant.” – ANTHONY WONSEY

Chris Beck currently performs with Cyrus Chestnut, Oliver Lake, and Grammy nominated Rufus Reid in addition to sharing the stage with renowned musicians such as McCoy Tyner, legendary Motown recording artist Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, James “Blood” Ulmer, The Mingus Big Band, David Murray, Billy Harper, Curtis Fuller, James Spaulding, Harold Mabern, Charles Fambrough, Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Wycliffe Gordon, Orrin Evans, Bruce Barth, Nicole Henry, Jennifer Holliday, Macy Gray, Mark Whitfield, Derrick Hodge, Ralph Bowen, Joanna Pascale, Joe Locke, Duane Eubanks, Eric Lewis, and countless others around the world.

For more information, please visit

Chris Beck - The Journey (2018)

Debut album "The Journey" featuring Anthony Wonsey, Eric Wheeler, and Stacy Dillard w/ Special Guest Terell Stafford

Since arriving in New York from his native Philadelphia in 2006, Chris Beck has made a name for himself as one of today’s premier drummers, traveling the world and working with artists as diverse as Cyrus Chestnut, Oliver Lake, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Wynton Marsalis, Rufus Reid and Macy Gray. With his debut release, The Journey, Beck has given us a recording that honestly expresses his emotions and his respect for the straight-ahead jazz tradition.

For this session, Chris surrounded himself with some of his best friends: tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Anthony Wonsey and bassist Eric Wheeler. Their camaraderie is immediately evident on the first tune, a driving rendition of Wayne Shorter’s composition "Mahjong." As the tune fades out, you find yourself wanting more — and Chris Beck delivers, filling the album with his own melodic and gospel-tinged compositions interspersed with other jazz standards, including Freddie Hubbard’s "Birdlike" and Quincy Jones’ "The Quintessence."

Chris is obviously a spiritual person, and his faith has sustained him in the face of tragedy — the loss of his son Aiden just weeks before his second birthday. The composition “Waiting for Aiden” is dedicated to his firstborn. Beck also reveals his talent as a vocalist on Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” dedicated, as Chris says, to “every grieving parent who is living with a piece of their heart missing.” 

1) Mahjong
2) Ode To Mother Young
3) Teona
4) Byrdlike
5) Hodge-Podge
6) Yeshua (His Love)
7) Quintessence
8) Waiting For Aiden
9) Tears In Heaven
10) My Inner Circle

PHILLY CD Release Party - June 6th @ South, 7:00pm & 9:00pm

CHRIS BECK // DRUMMER from Boat Safety Films on Vimeo.

Jeremy Ledbetter Trio - Got A Light? (June 2018)

The Jeremy Ledbetter Trio’s debut album, Got a Light?, is a controlled explosion of big musical ideas, stylistic variety, vivid colours and compelling musical storytelling. The new project features three Canadian virtuosos – pianist and bandleader Jeremy Ledbetter, drummer Larnell Lewis of Snarky Puppy fame, and bassist Rich Brown (Steve Coleman, Dapp Theory) – at the top of their game.

Ledbetter has a made a fine career so far out travelling to remote corners of the globe from Venezuela to Myanmar in search of musical inspirations. As the leader of acclaimed Caribbean jazz ensemble CaneFire and calypso legend David Rudder’s producer and musical director, Ledbetter is used to working with large bands and more rigorous definition. So it was a welcome change of pace not to have to leave his home city to create his first jazz trio record.

“Working with killers like Larnell and Rich, you don’t have to play it safe,” says Ledbetter. “They inspired me to really work without a net, and let my own compositional personality shine through. Whereas most of my music so far has been rooted by traditional music, this album is about painting my own pictures and creating a cinematic kind of atmosphere. It’s a contemporary jazz album that’s telling stories I hope anyone would be able to understand and relate to. This record is the first truly original representation of my own musical soul, and that’s a great feeling.”

Eight of the songs are Ledbetter’s original compositions, plus a cover of “Gift Shop” by the Tragically Hip as a tribute to the great Gord Downie, recorded a week after his passing. Venezuelan world-jazz diva Eliana Cuevas makes a guest appearance on “Her New Wings,” and the exquisite “Suspirito” features a duet between Ledbetter’s piano and Reimundo Sosa on Afro-Cuban batá drums.

The Jeremy Ledbetter Trio must be seen live and in person to achieve the full effect.  For that, we recommend attending our CD Release Concert, one show only, on June 13th at Lula Lounge in Toronto.  

To stay up to date on everything we’re doing, you can like us on Facebook here.

Rich Brown: bass
Larnell Lewis: drums

Joan Chamorro presenta Joan Codina (JAZZ to JAZZ 2018)

Joan Chamorro keeps woking on his labour of love for music and teaching. After presenting Andrea Motis, Eva Fernández, Magalí Datzira, Rita Payés, Marc Martin, Joan Mar Sauqué and Èlia Bastida, now it’s time for trombonist Joan Codina.

Sant Andreu Jazz Band is a project arising from a music class. Conducted by Joan Chamorro, the big band brings together children between 6 and 18 years old, around a classic jazz repertoire with lots of swing, which gained the public and sold-out some of the most important music auditoriums in Spain.

I Had The Craziest Dream
You Are Too Beautiful
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
Just In Time
If I Had You
Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love
Claudette’s Way
Vivo Sonhando
Hip Bones
Brigas Nunca Mais
My Old Flame
Theme From Picnic
Codina’s Blues
I’ve Never Been In Love Before

The Carl Michel Group - Music In Motian (The Compositions Of Paul Motian) 2018

The music of drummer/composer Paul Motian is revered in certain circles of jazz, while resting in obscurity among others. The performing credits of Motian run deep and are extensive, but as a author of highly original music, he lies in the under-documented category. This will not last much longer as, in the years since his passing, his followers are carrying the torch, one such notable being guitarist Carl Michel.

Michel (pronounced Michael) has recognized the contributions of Paul Motian, and he has re-created a complete repertoire of his music. Ann Arbor-based jazz guitarist and composer Michel now has recorded a compendium of Motian’s music played with expert musicians from Southeastern Michigan, a one-of-a-kind tribute to Paul Motian’s music, with adaptations and extrapolations akin to the fertile musical mind Michael is inspired by.

The late drummer Paul Motian was an icon not only among his fellow percussionists but as a composer in his own right.  In addition to performing with his own group, he performed with the great pianist Bill Evans’ trio and the legendary Keith Jarrett-led mid-70s small ensemble, while working sidebar gigs with Charlie Haden and Bill Frisell and recording for the Nonesuch, ECM and Winter & Winter labels, among others. Motian became important in many additional ways as a mentor and unique presence in modern jazz.

In his research on and recording of Motian’s music, Michel discovered a blog of Cindy McGuirl, Paul Motian’s niece, who has self-publishing a book, “The Compositions of Paul Motian Volume 1 1973-1989.” Volume 2 of Motian’s compositions will be out early 2018. Her blog, titled “Uncle Paul’s Jazz Closet,” has podcasts of radio shows that she curates featuring her uncle’s music.

As far as Michels’ connection to Paul Motian’s music, it goes back to his early interest in jazz. “I got information from record stores – the first record I had was a Wes Montgomery/Milt Jackson album, then Ralph Towner and Gary Burton. I liked the ECM label and the sound. I fell into John Abercrombie and Pat Metheny pretty hard, but I found a promo copy of Dance by Paul Motian on ECM, and at first I didn’t get it, but I loved the spacious sound, and there was no other drummer so unique. I got acquainted with Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet and Quintet. But it was Paul Motian’s Live In Tokyo that really turned the light on, and I realized so much in his music – elements of Thelonious Monk, Eastern European music and Ornette Coleman coming together in his writing – and it hit a peak.”

“I tried to get in touch with him, wrote to the record label – his music is not in The Real Book – and he graciously sent me 10-12 copies of his music. There’s a lot of depth, and you see how the writing is becoming stronger. By then, he was not touring, only playing in New York, and I went to the Village Vanguard to hear him, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. It was religious and mesmerizing. After he passed away in 2011, I was able to meet others through the internet who were interested in his music and had copies and was able to exchange music with them. I wrote his music administrator to see if I could get more, was able to, and did the recording project of which I’m proud.”

Now, as a definitive statement, the music of Paul Motian is available to the world through the keen lens of Carl Michel for all the world to hear, listen to, and deeply enjoy.

Jason Palmer - At Wally's Volume 2 (SteepleChase Productions ApS June 15, 2018)

1. Ethos
2. Style
3. Sunny Rain
4. The Side Eye
5. Cheas

Jason Palmer (tp)
Noah Preminger (ts)
Max Light (g)
Chris McCarthy (p,elp on 5)
Simon Willson (b)
Lee Fish (ds)

Jason Palmer - At Wally's Volume 1 (SteepleChase Productions ApS 2018)

Wally’s, Boston’s historical (est. 1947) live jazz spot, is where the award-winning trumpeter/composer Jason Palmer started to hone his chops some 20 years ago while a student at New England Conservatory. Jason and his Boston-based quintet has been performing there every weekend to the loyal and enthusiastic crowd since 2006. This CD is the first of two documentary live recordings from those electrifying nights in 2016.

“Over the past decade, trumpeter Jason Palmer has proven to be one of the most compelling artists of his generation. With each new volume in a series of CDs for SteepleChase, Palmer reveals a different aspect to his musical mind while the expressiveness of his horn continues to expand as well.” (Ken Dryden – the NYC Jazz Record on SCCD 31820 Beauty ‘n’ Numbers)

2 GABBY* 7:52
3 KEMEROVO 18:02
5 BE AWARE 15:52
6 AT EASE 11:56

Composed by Jason Palmer

NOAH PREMINGER tenor saxophone
MAX LIGHT guitar
LEE FISH drums

Charles Mingus - Cafe Montmarte, Copenhagen, 1976 (CONDITION WEST RECORDINGS June 4, 2018)

1. Fables of Nixon, Rockefeller & Ford 14:07
2. Sound of Love 15:16
3. Goodbye Porkpie Hat 12:44
4. For Harry Carney 16:38
5. Skyliner/Cherokee 01:15
6. Interview with Charles Mingus 04:16
7. Interview with Dannie Richmond 02:56

Charles Mingus​ -​ bass
Ricky Ford​ -​ tenor saxophone
Jack Walrath​ - trumpet
Dannie Mixon​ - ​piano
Danny Richmond​ - ​drums

The Paul Cram - Trio Live at l'Opale, Montreal, 1983 (CONDITION WEST RECORDINGS 2018)

1. Round One 11:50
2. Boplicity 07:24
3. Her 07:29
4. Round One 11:50
5. Her 07:29
6. Under the Double Standard 06:49
7. Moving House 07:47
8. Medley: Tough Titty and Public Nuance 11:53

Paul Cram, tenor saxophone
Lisle Ellis, bass
Gregg Simpson, drums

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet - Polka (Worldwide Deluxe Edition) WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS August 3, 2018

Whirlwind announces the new release from bassist and composer Wojtek Mazolewski and his quintet: Polka Worldwide Deluxe Edition. Since the release of the full-length album Polka in 2014, the dynamic Polish bassist and his band have broken well beyond the jazz genre’s usual boundaries and have gained international recognition, effortlessly inspiring audiences at some of the world’s biggest rock and indie music festivals as well as appearing in jazz and dance clubs, with some 200 concerts across 21 countries in the last few years alone.

Their music has been featured on mainstream Polish TV and climbed the Polish Radio charts while being featured by BBC Radio DJ Gilles Peterson (‘Theme de Yoyo’ – the bonus track here – appeared on Mazolewski’s album of the same name and was one of Peterson’s 50 best records of 2017). Polka went gold in six months and platinum in three years in Poland alone, and the follow-up single London was released in the UK in 2017. Now, for the first time, Polka, Theme de Yoyo and London are presented together in this significant collection. 

Vigorously combining tradition and modernity, the analog sound of the quintet harks back to the jazz masters (also reflecting the vibrant Polish jazz scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s), yet is infused with electronica and other contemporary influences. Echoes of Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana and Aphex Twin are, therefore, all interwoven by the bassist and his dream team of pianist Joanna Duda, tenor saxophonist Marek Pospieszalski, trumpeter Oskar Torok and drummers Qba Janicki and Michat Bryndal. It‘s like listening to history being sonically reworked, with a uniquely contemporary twist. 

Mazolewski recalls the album’s beginnings during a visit to London: “I stumbled upon a beautiful invitation to a carnival ball. Inside… was a list of dances for the guests to request; and amongst the styles, I came across a lovely-sounding word – ‘polka’ – which immediately struck me as a great album title. So far from home, I felt many positive emotions and realized that this word can have a number of definitions, even though the polka is a Czech dance. That fascination later became prophetic, as the band features the trumpet of Oskar Torok – a Slovak living in Prague. Furthermore, a wonderful Polish woman, Joanna Duda, plays the piano alongside me. I’m very grateful to fate for allowing me to create music with such a brilliant band. Oskar, Marek, Qba, Michat and Joanna are remarkable musical partners and fantastic people”. 

The gentle, awakening aubade of ‘Roma’ and easy-going groove of ‘Grochow’ belie the dizzy heights this band can attain. But then, heralded by ‘PUNK-t Gdansk’s boppish fervor and fast-swinging, jazz-piano-ornamented ‘Polka’, their undulating moods are revealed, complemented by the springlike openness of ‘Paris’ and ‘Berlin’s free-spirited, bass-thrummed improvisations. Ska-like ‘London’ and ‘Sunday’ both stomp assertively, underpinning attractive, punkish sax and trumpet; ‘Bangkok’ is portayed aromatically through waterdrop piano and soft horns amidst shimmering percussion; and ‘Krakow’ meanders to keyboard rivulets and searching tenor. 

“I offer you an album full of enthusiasm and emotion”, affirms Wojtek Mazolewski. “This nostalgic, crazy and introspective musical tale is the reflection of my experiences. Music is an abstract message, packed with energy and power, which you can interpret as you wish. Take from it whatever works for you – that’s why it exists.”

1. Roma
2. Grochow
3. PUNK-t Gdansk
4. Polka
5. Paris
6. Berlin
7. London (intro)
8. London (part 1)
9. London (part 2)
10. Sunday
11. Bangkok
12. Krakow
13. Theme de Yoyo

Oskar Török - trumpet
Marek Pospieszalski - tenor saxophone
Joanna Duda - piano
Wojtek Mazolewski - double bass
Qba Janicki - drums
Michał Bryndal - drums

All songs except London (Intro, Part 1, Part 2) recorded at Radio Gdansk, Poland 
Engineer - Piotr Taraszkiewicz 
Mixed by Piotr Taraszkiewicz & 
Wojtek Mazolewski at Nu Wave, Gdansk, Poland London (Intro, Part 1, Part 2) and Theme de Yo Yo recorded at Rolling Tapes Studio, Poland Engineer - Marek Szwarc 
Mixed by Marek Szwarc & Wojtek Mazolewski at Rolling Tapes Studio 
Mastered by Piotr Taraszkiewicz 
Produced by Wojlek Mazolewski 
Executive Producer for Whirlwind Recordings Michael Janisch 
Executive Producer for Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Bartosz Stawiarz

Jure Pukl - Doubtless (WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS 2018)

As New York-based saxophonist and composer Jure Pukl enthuses, Doubtless is pretty much a family project/album – an exuberant, high-spirited double-tenor quartet with wife Melissa Aldana plus close friends Joe Sanders (double bass) and Greg Hutchinson (drums). 

Both saxophonists have multifarious musical interests between them – Pukl’s vibrant four-piece release, Hybrid with pianist Matija Dedić, released last year on Whirlwind; and Aldana’s four albums as leader have garnered a raft of reviews praising her indubitable invention. 

Yet here is a creative circle so organically conjoined that the entire session was captured inside three hours, live in the studio in Jure Pukl’s home country of Slovenia, on the back of workshops and tour schedules.

Spontaneity is key. “It’s very improvised – and every number sounds different at each gig,” says Pukl. “Joe can change things so much, including time signatures, so we have to react in the moment. But it’s great to switch the vibe – we go for it, and the audience feel it. Once we’ve checked out the pieces, we then purposely let them go; and I’ve found so much liberation in this – we all become transformers for where the music wants to take us.” It’s clearly an artistic marriage made in heaven: “I don’t know many saxophone couples who like to perform together; but with me and Melissa, it’s the opposite – it feels natural, we have a similar tenor vocabulary, and that energy unites us. So in this quartet we create harmony, counterpoint… and Joe has an amazing harmonic ability, too, alongside his and Greg’s deep sense of rhythm. There’s so much happening – the sound is incredibly full.” 

That drive is perceptible in an album whose extemporary freedom is complemented by attractive melodic hooks – from the flowering, canonic phrases of ebullient 'Doubtless 'to a more lyrical horn partnership in elegantly waltzing 'Doves', albeit with sparky drum-and-bass undercurrent. Ornette Coleman’s lesser-known 'InterSong' was a pleasing find for Pukl, his captivatingly intuitive explorations with Aldana widening into sizzling restlessness; and Joe Sanders’ 'Eliote' (for his newborn son) is full of leaping bass figures, perky rhythms and extended tenor intervals. Trio piece 'Compassion' – Pukl’s tender expression of the need for worldly tolerance – is contrasted with tumbling, bass-pliant Elsewhere and the swooning, almost delirious phrases of 'Mind and Soul' (Pukl seeking the fine line between artistic intellect and heart). Slow, Latin-tinged tenor-and-bass duo 'Where Are You Coming From?' reinterprets a classically-inspired number from Hybrid, whilst 'Bad Year Good Year'’s subtly Tijuana-style opening heralds deliciously cool, shared tenor improv against percussive fervor. 

The album title, Doubtless, reflects Pukl’s sure faith in this amiable though energized collaboration, as well as recalling a period of intensely personal emotion: “This record was born around the time my mom was seriously sick (she’s fine now); but I trusted the universe that her health, and this album, would all come together. When you have someone close who is ill, you learn to think differently, to let go and trust – and this also came out in the recording. I have realised how important it is to play with people you love and respect – they love you back, and it takes the music to a higher level. It’s magic being on the road with these guys. What we create is something that people – not just jazz audiences – connect with. This band brings together everything that we are, and it works. It’s kinda amazing!” 

"​Under it’s guise of artless, improvised freedom,​ ​this is highly sophisticated music, requiring an impressive level of virtuosity from all concerned​."​ 
Jazz Views​ 

“An intense, artistic collaboration provoking organic and spontaneous exchanges... Reinventing, reinterpreting and rearranging... Masterful.” 
Radio REC

The Mind And The Soul
Where Are You Coming From?
Bad Year - Good Year

Jure Pukl - tenor saxophone
Melissa Aldana - tenor saxophone
Joe Sanders - upright bass
Gregory Hutchinson - drums

Recorded at RSL Studios, Novo Mesto, Slovenia
(February 27th 2017)
Engineered by Matej Grobec
Mixed and mastered by David Stoller & Jure Pukl at
The Samurai Hotel Recording Studios
Astoria, New York (September 2017)
Produced by Jure Pukl
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Cover painting by Cecile McClorin Salvant
Album artwork graphic design by Sophie Moates

Jeff Williams - Lifelike (WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS 2018)

Dividing his time between Brooklyn and London, veteran drummer Jeff Williams is in the midst of an exceptional run on the Whirlwind Recordings label. Outlier, in 2016, showcased his working UK quintet in a set hailed by All About Jazz for its “imaginative compositions and excellent musicianship.” Lifelike, the follow-up, finds Williams and the group live on the bandstand, with a tweak in personnel and an expansion to sextet with the addition of guest trumpeter Gonçalo Marquez. Also entering the picture is alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, a fiery presence on Williams’ first two Whirlwind releases (Another Time and The Listener). Tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, pianist Kit Downes and bassist Sam Lasserson remain on board from Outlier, playing with characteristic beauty and grit. 

Williams has documented his compositional voice on recordings going back to the late ’80s. His pedigree as a sought-after sideman and collaborator stretches back farther, from his membership in Lookout Farm with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach to his vital work with Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Ted Curson, Cecil McBee, Jerry Bergonzi, Joe Lovano and a host of others. Leading this new lineup, Williams builds on this extensive and invaluable history, pushing his art ever forward. “Lifelike is another way of saying ‘live,’” he muses about the album title. “The word is usually ascribed to inanimate objects and I always found it humorous. Basically, I felt that this recording has ‘life’ in it, the kind of life embodied in a live performance.” 

Although Phil Robson, the brilliant guitarist on Outlier, recently moved to New York, O’Gallagher’s transition from Brooklyn to Birmingham, England came just in time. The change keeps the music fresh and unexpected. “John and I go back more than 20 years,” Williams says. “He’s been the constant in my band and it’s hard to imagine him not a part of it. He has his own musical vocabulary and conception, and fortunately he’s pursuing his doctorate from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where I also teach, so he’s available to me again as a key ingredient.” 

Together, O’Gallagher and Arcoleo bring Williams’ music into tight focus while fostering a loose and supple interplay. Marquez joins on 'Under the Radar', 'Dream Visitor' and his own original 'Canção do Amolador', thickening the texture and harmony. “I was fortunate to meet Josh when he signed up for lessons with me at the Royal Academy of Music,” Williams recalls. “He studied with Pee Wee Ellis growing up, even toured with him while still a teenager. Gonçalo is a more recent discovery: I met him when bassist Demian Cabaud invited me to play some dates in Portugal last year. We played Gonçalo’s ‘Canção do Amolador’ and I was captivated. There’s a special hookup between trumpet and drums unlike any other. But it has to be just right, and it is with him.” 

Downes is a formidable soloist throughout, but the color and dynamic sensitivity of his comping proves just as extraordinary. “Kit is an exceptional musician with incredible ears,” Williams says. “He’s able to anticipate and enhance everything the band members play. And Sam, one of London’s most in-demand bassists, has logged numerous musical miles with me over the last decade or so. With him I’m able to play exactly as I feel.” 

Williams, for his part, is a tremendous presence on the kit, tailoring the dynamics of the pieces, swinging hard and responsively, harnessing the energy and uncompromising musical intelligence of his colleagues. Lifelike may capture just one night (June 13, 2017) in one club, but it’s a vibrant summation of the band’s achievement across many live performances in support of Outlier. 

“My own compositions come from different periods,” Williams says. “‘Borderline’ and ‘Lament’ are from the ’90s, others quite recent. All are conceived at the piano: sometimes I just write down the notes as they present themselves, or sometimes I’ll play one for an extended period while learning to improvise on the form and tweaking the harmony, as was the case with ‘The Interloper.’ I’m looking for balance between songs with structure and open forms so that the players have freedom to express their own conception.” 

A number of the tunes Williams recorded on earlier releases; Lifelike offers an intimate view of their evolution during many nights on the bandstand. 'Borderline' and 'Lament' from The Listener, and 'Under the Radar and 'Double Life' from Another Time, were all previously heard in a chordless quartet context, with O’Gallagher and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. The contrast here after the addition of Downes’ piano and Arcoleo’s tenor is striking. ('Under the Radar' is a six-bar blues, Williams observes). Of 'The Interloper' and 'Borderline', Williams says: “These have in common a Monkian sensibility, though it wasn’t intentional. In both cases the melody dictated the form, making the structures unusual and challenging to maintain for soloing.” 

'Dream Visitor', with its tension-filled repeating bass motif, cleverly shifts key centers throughout to “allow each soloist to have a different tonality to explore,” Williams explains. “The final section features a different, more funk-like bass line. In this version, a group blowing section culminates in the spontaneous horn figure you hear just before the conclusion. The overall trajectory is mapped out, but that horn figure just happened.” 

The rubato section of 'Lament', Williams notes, “is almost like a fugue. It was written after a good friend passed away in a tragic accident. He was from New Orleans and the beginning is like the funeral service, while the swing section is like the second line that celebrates the deceased.” And 'Double Life', with its shifts from bright waltz to midtempo and double-time 4/4, “refers to my trans-Atlantic existence, as well as the second life that I gave the tune by reworking it.” In these and the other pieces, there’s technical brilliance but also a deeper emotional frame of reference, giving Lifelike a most complex and magnetic appeal.

"C​ontemporary, forward-looking but knows where it’s coming from.​" 
Bebop Spoken Here​ 

​"​The sextet rambles, rumbles, and rocks through seven Williams originals​... Full of life." 
Step Tempest 

"Absorbing and memorable.​.. ​superb virtuosic musicians​." 
Sandy Brown Jazz​ 

​"​The writing is free-ranging, with lots of exploration at the edges of free-form, but the melodies and structures are satisfyingly memorable and direct throughout​." 
Jazz Views​ 

“A celebration of progressive live jazz.” 
Jazz ‘n’ More 

“Williams constantly pushes at the shift between tonality and atonality and deftly masters the balance between structured and open play.” 
★★★★​ ​Concerto Magazine 

“Rousing and multi-layered... Exciting and vital modern jazz.” 
Jazz Podium

1. Under the Radar 08:39
2. The Interloper 06:31
3. Dream Visitor 08:33
4. Lament 09:45
5. Borderline 08:46
6. Conçao do Amolador 07:59
7. Double Life 10:12

Jeff Williams - drums
Gonçalo Marquez - trumpet
John O'Gallagher - alto saxophone
Josh Arcoleo - tenor saxophone
Kit Downes - piano
Sam Lasserson - double bass

Recorded at Vortex Jazz Club, London (June 13th 2017)
Engineered by Alex Bonney
Mixed and mastered by Max Ross at Systems Two, Brooklyn NY
Produced by Jeff Williams
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Jacket design concept and photography by Jeff Williams