I’ve been enjoying getting to know the album “Shock!” from the Gareth Williams Power Trio with Laurence Cottle and Ian Thomas (Linn AKD326). The album launch will be at a three-night residency at Ronnie Scott’s from 19 March to 21 March.
The 9th Edition of the Penguin Guide by Brian Morton and the late Richard Cook (a serious brick…14,000 CDs, 1,646 pages) categorizes Williams as “one of Britain’s best accompanists.”
I’ve been thinking about that word “accompanist”… At one of the gigs of my life in the theatre in Brecon in 2007, yes, Williams’ trio was indeed billed as “accompanying” Joe Lovano. But what I remember most vividly was Joe Lovano’s face when he clocked Williams’ soloing! So I’d rather say “one of Britain’s best musicians.” (By the way, here’s some fun stuff about Williams from the Associated Board’s Sound Junction site. )
My wordy, nerdy side for a paragraph…..What I love about Williams improvisatory language that it combines boldness and certainty with guilelessness and constant exploration. He stays within the phrase, yet also reaches out to explore beyond it. He repeats/extends/grows/insists. The listener is drawn in, is helped, is handed the internal logic, but Williams is constantly using simple materials to set up and resolve both rhythmic and harmonic tension.
Or simply put, I find it a mesmerising voice of which I can’t get enough.
For me, the two different recording sessions for this album, interspersed freely on the album, inhabit different sound-worlds. In the old days they might have been an A-side and a B-side. There are eight tracks of acoustic grand piano from one session, leaning more obviously towards the jazz piano trio tradition. And five on an unnamed Fender Rhodes-ish electric keyboard from the other session, where the language becomes more rock/funk. High quality is consistent: Williams, Cottle and Thomas speak both languages with total fluency, and balance/sound are excellent.
My highlight from the piano session- it speaks straight to the heart- is the slow, meditative “Zelda,” dedicated to Williams’ daughter. Delicate expression, with both Cottle and Thomas sensitive and utterly supportive. I get the palpable sense of, say, the reaching out of a child’s arm. It’s very touching. And, by contrast, from the electric set it’s the irresistibly bouncy restless, funk-energetic feel of “Some In.” Great stuff.
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