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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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WILLIE WILLIAMS

Comet Ride

Miles High Productions MHP 8602

 

 



 

1. Comet Ride
2. Tenor Ballet
3. I'm Misunderstood
4. Three Generations
5. Leprechaun's Dance
6. Changes of Heart
7. Freedom Suite: a. Freedom Jazz Dance; b. Gingerbread Boy; c. C.T.A; d. Freedom Jazz Dance Reprise
8. Mo' Grits
9. Philly Syndrome
10. Caravan.
 
Willie Williams - Tenor sax, soprano sax
Gary Wang - Bass
Rudy Walker - Drums

 

This album starts not with a whimper but a bang, as Willie Williams kicks the title-track into action with some hair-raisingly fast runs on tenor sax. Williams's dexterity is matched by his two-man rhythm section, which somehow manages to keep up with his headlong pace and energetic delivery. Willie often swerves near to the avant-garde in the liberties he takes but he is still easy to follow, especially as the tune seems to be based on the chords of Lover. The mood changes dramatically for Tenor Ballet and I'm Misunderstood - both sombre pieces whose darkness is increased by Gary Wang's bowed bass and the deep, penetrating tone of Williams's tenor sax.

Three Generations moves the trio into free jazz - a completely improvised piece that at least has more integrity than many examples of the genre and illustrates the empathy of the three musicians, who recorded this album when they had just returned from a European tour. Williams includes some Coltranesque shrieking, which may not be to everyone's taste, but there's not too much of it. The mood lightens for Leprechaun's Dance, a lightly-tripping piece on which Williams's soprano sax dances all over the place. Rudy Walker and Gary Wang contribute good solos. Changes of Heart seems to have a deliberately capricious chord structure but Williams takes us with him on the complicated journey, which is made easier to follow by Gary Wang's sturdy double bass.

Although Willie wrote most of the tunes on the CD, Freedom Suite is actually an amalgam of three numbers by two other composers: Eddie Harris's Freedom Jazz Dance and Jimmy Heath's Gingerbread Boy and CTA. This shows us the funky side of the trio, with Williams starting off by playing soprano and tenor together as a homage to Roland Kirk, then taking off with some lengthy blowing. Mo' Grits continues the funkiness, with a New Orleans feel supplied by marching drums. Philly Syndrome first appeared on Williams's debut album as a leader, House Calls, and it gives rise to some impassioned tenor sax. The album ends with the Ellingtonian tune Caravan, complete with its vocal bridge. It starts with a compelling tenor solo from Williams but it is also a well-deserved feature for drummer Rudy Walker.

Willie Williams has appeared on many albums as part of other bands but this is only his fifth album as a leader. It makes one long for more.

Tony Augarde

 

 

 

 



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