Review: the return of Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson. Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Tomorrows Warriors Jazz Orchestra dir. Gary Grosby / Steve Williamson
(Purcell Room,Southbank Cenre, July 23rd 2011. Review by Roger Thomas)

Among all the Jazz Warriors, Tomorrows Warriors, and the many bands that have come out of that movement, Steve Williamson is the Forgotten Warrior. A key figure in the original Jazz Warriors, he has scarcely played in public for more than a decade. He decided to shift his energy and his sincerity to focus on imperatives which were more important to him. The good news for the future is that the time away has also allowed him to become productive and given him fresh inspiration towards writing/composition.

The story of Steve Williamson’s involvement in this conert is in Gary Crosby’s preview for LondonJazz.

There was a packed house, and the programme had a logic, a sense of building towards a climax. The first set was given up to showcasing arrangements by Tomorrows Warriors alumni, namely Peter Edwards, Binker Golding, James Mckay and Jason Yarde. A highlight of the second set was Steve Williamson’s composition Soon Come. Gary Crosby had explained to the audience that Soon Come is a West Indian term similar to the Spanish “mañana.” And Jason Yarde’s arrangement had got right into the spirit: apparently Jason had delivered the parts half an hour before the end of the band’s last rehearsal. Literally, with the ink still wet! Denys Baptiste’s authoratitive tenor solo gave that tune a kick, a shift in gear, as he delivered a flurry of urgent notes, as if he needed to get them all before the closing of a door.

But the best, the main event, came with the last number, Waltz For Grace, the piece Steve wrote in memory of his sister who passed away at a very young age.

Wiliamson enters the stage with a shy grin acknowledging the applause. Joined by vocalist Myrna Hague, known as Jamaica’s First Lady Of Jazz, they position themselves as Steve starts to ease his way into the song with some light soprano lines and the occasional pause for thought followed by more delicate lines before signalling for the song to begin proper. This James McKay arrangement allowed for every facet of the song to be appreciated with moments of poignancy as Steve’s soprano intertwined with sweet tones of Myrna’s voice. It was one of those moments where you knew you’ heard a piece of history in the making, and didn’t want the song to end knowing that it was the last song. However, the audience showed such appreciation that Gary Crosby and Steve returned to play a bass and soprano version of John Coltrane’s Equinox.

Let’s hope to hear more from Steve Williamson, and of the new music he has been working on in the very near future. Welcome back to the Warriors.

Part of Great British Jazz produced for the South Bank Centre by Serious, and of the London is the Place for Me weekend celebrating seminal moments in black British music. Tomorrow’s Warriors is a weekend resident at Southbank Centre.

Categories: miscellaneous

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