Tag Archives: CD

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

And finally a playlist on Apple Music:

 

Kobie Watkins: Movement

Movement

Drummer Kobie Watkins, born and raised in Chicago, has toured and recorded with a number of well-known musicians like Sonny RollinsBobby Broom (he plays on the three Bobby Broom albums which I have in my collection)Kurt EllingBranford Marsalis and Joe Lovano. He presents here his first album with his Grouptet.

The Kobie Watkins Grouptet includes:

  • Kobie Watkins – drums
  • Justin Nielsen - piano
  • Ryan Nielsen - trumpet
  • Jonathan Armstrong – saxophone
  • Aaron Miller - bass

The album was released on May 15 and contains nine originals, along with a great new arrangement of ‘Manteca.’

The first song on the album is called “Catch This” and starts with an easy latin groove with a clear focus on the percussive playing of Kobie. The first solo goes to the trumpet followed by the bass with nice kicks from the horns, all very easy and laid-back. Dynamics increase a little with the piano and saxophone solo. Then at around 5:00 min an extensive latin outro starts and the jazz band sounds now like a salsa band. Kobie told me that “… the end section and the overall energy is from a place I grew up as an upcoming professional in and throughout Chicago. The latin late nights in the latin clubs where music, dance and language never slept. “

The album continues with “The City”. This is my first highlight of the album. A pushing groove by Kobie, a beautiful melody perfectly arranged in two voices and great modal solos, especially by Justin Nielsen on piano leave no doubt that we have here a band of true masters at work. Kobie explained me that this song is about his adventurous feelings when traveling and coming into The City.
“T
he groove is something I created, working on a Sonny Rollins tune. Playing with him when I created this tune inspired how I arranged the song.”
He also told me this song could last for hours, the modal form leaves plenty of space for the musicians to improvise extensively. On the album unfortunately the fun is over after 7:20 mins.

The next song is called “Movement” and it is the title song of the album. This song is composed around a bass line Kobie wrote in 2007. It starts polyrhythmic, as Kobie said in an “afrocentric feeling” and then after 2 mins it changes to an elegiac unaccompanied piano solo that gets more and more intensive, drums, bass and later the whole band steps in and plays again briefly the theme. The next solo part is a duet between saxophone and Ryan Nielsen on flugelhorn. The outro of the tune is a perfect drum solo with kicks form the band.

“Six Moods”, the next tune is a ballad in 6/8 that changes to 5/4. A great melody and nice harmonic changes. Beautiful solos by piano, saxophone and flugelhorn. Kobie wrote this song in 2012 and he started it “… with me singing into my phone while driving a long distance. This was a song created from a somber mood swing… I tend to have from time to time…nothing serious.” But no somberness from my point of view, just a great melody and excellent solos.

The album continues with “Ga-Rum-Ban” a fast and furios tune with solos from saxophone, trumpet and a breathtaking piano in dialog with the drums.

“Inner Motion” is the next song and as before, the bass line was the starting point of the composition. A soft song with a complex bass line and a simple melody above. Justin Nielsen plays very tastefully on a Rhodes. Great dynamics in the trumpet and saxophone solos, this song is another highlight of the album.

The album continues with the tune “Rivet”.  The bass is again the origin of the tune. Kobie told me that this song was created in 2016 during a long drive. And this tune feels like a long drive, very steady even a little bit monotonic, “flowing sound” as Kobie explained.

“MBDC” comes next and unfortunately neither me nor Kobie are able to explain to you what this acronym stands for. The song was written in 2008 while Kobie was in Zimbabwe. It has a very energetic rhythm with a simple melody and eloquent drum fills. Quite remarkable is the saxophone solo in this song where Jonathan Armstrong and Kobie push each other and create great dynamics and incredible energy.

“Falling Upward” is the last original from Kobie Watkins on this album. This tune is based on a pushing groove and it is one more time Jonathan Armstrong who soaks up this energy and plays another astonishing solo. The song closes with soft piano chords and you have the impression of a show coming to an end.

However, there is the encore: “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie returns to where we started, to the dancers in the latin clubs where music never sleeps This famous jazz standard starts with a long groove intro. The head is played as a dialog between piano and saxophone, the B part is split between saxophone and trumpet similar to the original version. Great dynamic solos come from piano, saxophone and trumpet before the band returns to the steady groove from the beginning.

And if that is not enough there is another song available on bandcamp. It is called “Prayer for Peace” and was composed by Justin Nielsen. A beautiful and noble ballad with great harmonies and an incredible solo by Ryan Nielsen on flugelhorn.
https://kobiewatkinsgrouptet.bandcamp.com/

Not much to say anymore about this album: there is an extraordinary drummer who found congenial musicians and the result is an outstanding album full of energy and positive vibrations.

Here is a nice video from Kobie Watkins with some more information about this album:

And finally a playlist on Spotify: