Tag Archives: Album

Gary Williams: Treasure Seeker

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Almost exactly a year ago I presented the Gary Williams album “At The Movies”. In the meantime I saw Gary last October in London at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and met him afterwards.  He came with an excellent band and I had an unforgettable Sunday lunch in this club.

Gary has just released (officially yesterday on September 19) a new album called “Treasure Seeker”.  What makes this album quite remarkable is the fact that it has only originals on it, so this is the debut album of the singer-songwriter Gary Williams. Together with pianist Jon Nickoll (who is the resident pianist at the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar) twelve songs have been written, arranged and recorded for this album (the song “When Sunday Comes” is found twice in different arrangements, so the album has a total of 13 songs and a playtime of 44 minutes).

Gary presented some of the songs yesterday in London and I had the chance to attend this event. The picture shows Gary Williams and Jon Nickoll after performing together.

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There is some constancy and some evolution from the last album, the constant part is the band, the arranger Phil Steel and the Kenilworth studios, where the album was recorded. The evolutionary part is the songs, music that we have never heard before, songs where Gary put his feelings and his experience of life into words.

Some more background information can be found in this very entertaining video about the making of the album:

The album starts with the song “The Next Big Thing”, with the horn section at full tilt and a nice twist between the title of the song and the lyrics , because Gary sings “I don’t need to be the next big thing”. A short and crisp song to launch this album.

“Never Say I Love You” has been pre-released as a single on Spotify and is a beautiful soft song, not too slow, not too fast, with an excellent piano solo and again this extra wink between the title and the lyrics: “You can never say I love you too much”.

The album continues with “Kiss Me On A Rainy Day”, a slow love song with a superb big band arrangement played with great dynamics. This is just one of those tunes where Gary shows his coolness, regardless what the band does, he stays soft and relaxed.

“When Sunday Comes” starts with a nice acoustic guitar intro and we hear another soft and easy song, this time in Latin style, with the clear advice to “turn off the phones till Monday”. One of my favorites on the album, the steady groove comes from the acoustic guitar with some percussion. The Fender Rhodes sound is anyway something I just can’t get enough of.

“Don’t Trust A Wink” shows the hard swinging Gary Williams. Accompanied by an outstanding big band, this tune is another highlight of the album. The praise goes to Phil Steel, the band and especially Graeme Blevins on saxophone.

“One Second To Decide” is another big band tune, this is time much more old-fashioned, but played straight and without frills. Also very nice. The following video shows an unplugged version of this tune:

The album continues with “Growing Pains”, a ballad with just Matt Regan on piano and Gary Williams on vocals in a very intimate setup.

“I Blame The Moon” sounds like a traditional folk song (or like a song from the soundtrack to “Lord of the Rings”), with the flute playing the intro and interlude and the acoustic guitar picking arpeggios, a very soft and romantic song, supported by strings and a harp.

“Don’t Talk About Time” is next, a nice pop-song, again featuring Graeme Blevins on saxophone.

“The Dreamer” brings back the big band sound, this time with a jazz blues. It reminds me of songs like “Route 66″. We hear solos by Graeme Blevins on saxophone, Clive Dunstall on piano and Tommy Emmerton on guitar and again the incredible brass section that consists only of Malcolm Melling on trumpet and Chris Traves on trombone (who is also the studio engineer).

The album continues with “Our Love Grows Stronger”, a soft love song arranged in an easy Latin-style with an acoustic rhythm guitar, Fender Rhodes and saxophone, pleasantly laid-back and relaxed, this is the kind of song that you typically associate with Gary Williams.

The title song “Treasure Seeker” is the “last” song on this album. Gary asks us here: “Did I entertain you?” The simple answer is “Yes, indeed”. The longer answer is: “You entertained me and you impressed me at the same time.  This album is of outstanding excellence, beautiful melodies, lyrics that sometimes open the door to your inside, your experiences, sometimes have a little twist and I always enjoy English rhymes. The arrangements are fabulous and the band plays very, very good. So please, let us hear one more song.”

The encore is a Boogaloo version of “When Sunday Comes”, this version has teeth compared to the Latin groove before. The band shows again how precise and accurate it can play and Graeme Blevins on saxophone is one more time the soloist.

Unfortunately, that’s it. But the good things is that you can hear Gary live in London. The show on September 30 at Ronnie Scott’s is sold out, but tickets for his Christmas shows are already on sale. Alternatively, just book Gary for your next birthday party, you won’t regret it.

More details can be found on his website:
http://www.garywilliams.co.uk

 

 

Daniel Bennett Group: We Are The Orchestra

We Are the Orchestra - Album Cover (Photo by Pooja Rudra)

More than two years have passed since I presented an album of the Daniel Bennett Group. The group comes back this September not with mysteries or confusion but with pure music. “We Are The Orchestra” is the name of the latest album that has been released on September 7.

Daniel Bennett prefers to play in small ensembles, he goes on tour only with drums and guitar. For this album he reduced the number of musicians down to two.  He and Mark Cocheo recorded all of the wind, string and percussion instruments with the goal to create the sound of a large ensemble.

The line-up looks as follows:

  • Daniel Bennett: Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Oboe, Piano, Percussion
  • Mark Cocheo: Electric Guitar, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Nylon-String Guitar

The collaboration between these two musicians started when Bennett arranged the musical score for “Whitman at the Whitney” at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The show featured Daniel Bennett on saxophone and Mark Cocheo on banjo playing famous opera excerpts from the 19th and 20th century.

The official promotion video explains that in detail:

The album contains eight songs with a total playtime of 29 minutes and features six originals by Daniel Bennett and two opera themes by 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi.

The album starts with the song “Loose Fitting Spare Tire”, a typical Daniel Bennett composition that modulates heavily. The banjo and the western guitar define the folk sound of this tune. Solo instruments are an electric guitar and saxophone.

“I’m Not Nancy” follows this pattern, a catchy melody based on harmonies with multiple tonal centers. Flute and banjo are the solo instruments and the band sounds this time like a bluegrass combo.

The third song “Gold Star Mufflers” is another Daniel Bennett-original. The piano background gives this song it’s character and the minor chords moving in major thirds create that special “mystery” sound of this song.

The album continues with the “Theme From Ernani”, the first opera theme on this album. The pulse of the song comes from the banjo rhythm, Mark Cocheo plays a great guitar solo (I guess on his telecaster), the flute adds nice fills and someone had fun with the percussions especially with the vibra-slap.

We come to my personal favorite on the album. It’s a composition by Daniel Bennett again and is called “Refinancing For Elephants”. This song has a beautiful contemplative feeling, with the clarinet and the piccolo playing the melody and guitar and tambourin laying the background.

“Inside Our Pizza Oven” goes all the way to Marrakech, a song that reminds me of the atmosphere of the ‘Djemaa el Fna’-marketplace. Daniel plays the oboe and percussion and Mark adds a strumming guitar.

The next tune is the second composition by Guiseppe Verdi on the album. This title is called “Theme From Il Trovatore” and the Daniel Bennett Group interprets this waltz straight even a little bit cheesy, especially when two saxophones play the melody together at 1:30, but it fits perfectly for this song.

The album closes with “Carl Finds His Way”, again a typical Daniel Bennett-composition with moving tonal centers. Mark plays his guitar solo with a distortion effect, so this songs sounds much more like a pop song. Mark and Daniel again have a chance to show their virtuosity and the song ends with a dialog between guitar and saxophone.

The album is quite an eclectic collection of musical elements from folk, classic and jazz music and shows the versatility and the mastery of these two musicians. They have been able to create a full and well-balanced  sound. The Daniel Bennett Group has clearly found it’s style and the success of their unique musical approach proves them right.

More information about the Daniel Bennett Group can be found on their website:
https://danielbennettgroup.com

And finally a playlist on Spotify: