REVIEW: Kate Williams Four plus Three CD Launch at the 606 Club

Album Launch at the 606

Kate Williams Four plus Three CD Launch
(606 Club, 8th June 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Kate Williams has opened a very promising creative door with Four plus Three, and she knows it: “as a composer, this has been the dream line-up, and I keep on thinking of more stuff I want to do.”

Last Wednesday’s Four plus Three album launch was well supported by musician friends and family. The title refers to the combination of two classic, balanced and normally self-sufficient formations: the “Four” is a string quartet; the “Three” is a jazz piano trio. And the compositional task that the pianist/composer has set herself is to combine them either fully, to create a distinct “string quartet-plus-jazz trio” sound world, or to test the kaleidoscope of possible blends and surprises that can emerge from adding parts of the trio to either all or part of the quartet.

This task of creative combination is far from a simple. The first hurdle the performers have to negociate, and which a bandleader has to either facilitate or impose, is to ensure that all the different components can be heard. This group had got over that one brilliantly and consistently. Whereas the jazz trio backing loud solo instruments needs to out-think and to outpunch him or her, the task with unamplified strings is to work with their sound and frame it, and that implies consistent delicacy, restraint, listening, respect – the qualities which groups led by Kate Williams tend to have.

That balance and the restraint start with the piano playing.  Williams is a schooled and historically aware jazz pianist.There were constant reminders in her touch, of the school of jazz pianists who bring, or brought, a sense of balance with their every utterance. Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Barron in particular come to mind, and indeed the title of the new album may be an unconscious homage to Kenny Barron’s 1973 album 1 + 1 + 1, a pair of collaborations with bassists Ron Carter and Michael Moore, but with an awareness that this new venture is mathematically more complex.

The core language for Williams’ quartet writing is early twentieth century, with echoes of Debussy and Ravel, and also of Gershwin (think the 1919 Lullaby). But the permutations of parts give a constant flow of surprises: floated cello melodies for example, violinist John Garner improvising, or one section where the quartet was subtly deepened by a pedal note in the left hand of the piano and a rumbling tremolando tomtom from Ingamells. The album shows many more of these possibilities being playfully, subtly investigated.

Kate Williams told an anecdote explaining the title of a new tune, Enough Bread, which was telling about the way she looks for balance and proportion in music and in life, and recognizes excess and disproportion when she sees them: she described driving past a series of iron gates at the end of long drives to ostentatious Surrey mansions, and asking her drummer Dave Ingamells “When does the point come when people have made enough money?!”

The depth of possibilities for this grouping seems to be emerging as the compositions evolve. Preludes to numbers are expanding into larger statements. The whole thing seems organic, alive, work in progress. It is the right project at the right time for the right composer: immensely nourishing musically as it is, but also brim full of promise for what is yet to happen.

Kate Williams – piano
Oli Hayhurst – double bass
Dave Ingamells – drums
John Garner – violin
Marie Schreer – violin
Miguel Angel Rodriguez – viola
Sergio Serra – cello

1st set (compositions by Kate Williams or as stated)

Seven Across
Portrait In Black & White – AC Jobim
Eleven Tonal
B Minor Waltz – Bill Evans
How Deep Is Ocean (trio) – Irving Berlin
Storm Before Calm
Triste – Jobim

2nd set

Love For Sale – Porter
Orchid Avenues
Big Shoes
Twilight’s Last Blink
Enough Bread
You Know I Care – Duke Pearson
Round Trip
Walkin’ Up – Bill Evans

Categories: miscellaneous

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