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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BRUCE WILLIAMSON QUARTET

Standard Transmission

Origin 82567

 

 


1. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
2. Mamacita
3. Large Barge
4. Just You, Just Me
5. All of Me
6. Steps to a Woven Dream
7. Don't Blame Me
8. Sweet and Lovely
9. Nature Boy
10. The Touch of your Lips
11. Mysterious Moon

Bruce Williamson - Alto Sax, soprano Sax, flute, bass clarinet
Art Lande - Piano, melodica
Peter Barshay - Bass
Alan Hall - Drums

 

Why is it that some musicians with equal talent become famous and others do not? Is it simply providence, or is there some intangible quality that makes some musicians shine through, and others never make that final transition to recognizable accomplishment? Those questions might be asked of the multi-talented Bruce Williamson, with respect to his career. It is clear that he certainly has the technique as evidenced by this release Standard Transmission. And yet, there is something missing.

After many years as a sideman for such notables as Jack McDuff, Fred Hersch and Randy Brecker, and a nearly two-decade absence since his debut CD, Williamson combines with old friend and collaborator pianist Art Lande in a quartet assignment offering a combination of pop standards and a Williamson original. Leading off with I Didn't Know What Time It Was in a waltz mood, it evolves into 4/4 during the bridge, and provides some interesting bass clarinet by Williamson. Joe Henderson's Mamacita is a bluesy Latin-tinged number that gives the group an opportunity to stretch out to good effect. The Williamson original Large Barge is next, and is taken in a languid tempo but is not very memorable.

In choosing tunes for this set, the rationale for having Just You, Just Me, All Of Me and Don't Blame Me makes one wonder what Williamson, as the producer of this disc, was thinking. It seems unusual that he could not find other tunes that did not have Me in the title that could have been used as springboards for the group's improvisational efforts. Not that their efforts were impeded by the titles, since Just You, Just Me is a vehicle for a series of duets between different reed instruments, and Williamson uses his soprano sax to deliver a relaxed arrangement on All Of Me. The Ray Noble standard The Touch of your Lips is given an interesting interpretation with Williamson showing his musicality on flute and Lande's backing on melodica (a free-reed instrument similar to a harmonica). The disc closes out with a brief Mysterious Moon on which Williamson plays the melody of How High The Moon on alto sax with Lande offering the theme of Misterioso on piano, with the intention of bringing those two disparate tunes together. The result is creative but not entirely winning.

Perhaps Williamson's struggle for broader audience recognition may be due to a lack of a warmer tone and a distinctive voice on the variety of instruments that he plays. Accordingly that keeps him teaching music at Bennington College, rather than playing full time in the clubs.

Pierre Giroux



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