NEWS: Jeff Williams’ Summer in New York, and UK Autumn Gigs

Adam Nussbaum, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Jeff Willliams
Photo Credit: Ethan Iverson.

Drummer Jeff Williams spends summers in New York. The piece he wrote in 2012, recounting his summer, and looking forward to re-connecting with the London scene and with his band here, proved very popular. Here is the 2014 story. Welcome back! Jeff Writes:

How can my summer in New York be over already? It never even became unbearably hot. Has climate change turned the city into a holiday destination for those used to a Maine vacation in August? Maybe.

In any case I have become accustomed to daily sunshine and pleasantly balmy nights, things I’ll be missing in the coming months as I return to London. But weather isn’t everything and London more than acquits itself in other areas. So I’m not sad. In fact I’m quite up for it, and thrilled to have some dates with my UK sextet (Finn Peters, Josh Arcoleo, Phil Robson, Kit Downes, Sam Lasserson) coming up:

– Derby Jazz on 24 Oct.
– London Jazz Festival at the Green Note on 16 Nov.
–  CBSO Birmingham on 30 Jan.
(The last one a double bill with the Mike Fletcher Trio in which I’ll also be playing with Olie Brice, and whose new CD should be available on the night.)

As for what I’ve been up to these last three months, let’s just say it hasn’t been dull. While it’s troubling to see so many familiar businesses boarded up as I walk around Greenwich Village, some are managing to stick it out through almost unprecedented rent increases. One heartening development occurred this week when Smalls Jazz Club opened it’s new cousin Mezzrow just down the street at 163 West 10th.

On Thursday night September 4th we were treated to Cyrus Chestnut and Dezron Douglas in this well-appointed, pleasantly upscale and intimate room. The main space provides comfortable tables for those willing to shed conversation in exchange for proximity to a gorgeous piano. While those wanting to hang with friends at the bar can still hear the music quite well while feeling free to talk. It’s pretty great. Spike Wilner and Mitch Borden are seeking to replace the long-gone mythical Bradley’s, which was a piano and bass room were jazz giants could relax, play and enjoy each other’s company along with an informed public. I’d say they’re off to a wonderful start.

This past Tuesday September 2nd  Ethan Iverson invited all drummers, and anyone else hip enough to glean what was in store, to a clinic given by Albert “Tootie” Heath at pianist Mike Kanan’s performance space The Drawing Room in Brooklyn. Word got out and it was packed. Tootie is one of the all-time great jazz drummers, of course, and now occupies the mantle once held by Papa Jo, at least in my mind. He possesses the grace and flow, the touch and taste we are not likely to see again. (Louis Hayes and Roy Haynes are the others in this rarified territory but T is the most like Jo, I think.) The Heath’s are all known for their sense of humour but Tootie’s is unsurpassed. If you catch him with the trio–Ethan and Ben Street, you’ll find him telling jokes while they’re playing, in addition to the hilarious between tune patter.

I could go on and on about the clinic. It was a generous gift. He gave us all a lot to chew on, which we fortunately didn’t choke on during prolonged laughter. One thing that sticks with me: Repetition. You have play an idea long enough for the listener to understand what you’re saying, then your musical train of thought becomes discernible. Must remember that…


The opening of Mezzrow’s has been covered by Nate Chinen of the New York Times


Categories: miscellaneous

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