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John O’Gallagher / Sam Lasserson / Jeff Williams - Valence Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An absorbing and thrilling example of the art of the trio.

John O’Gallagher / Sam Lasserson / Jeff Williams

“Valence”

(Willful Archives 002)

The drummer and composer Jeff Williams has been a fairly frequent presence on the Jazzmann web pages in recent years, most notably because of the release of two excellent albums on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind record label, the studio recording “Another Time” (2011) and the subsequent live follow up “The Listener” (2013). These records were made by the drummer’s American Quartet featuring alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and bassist John Hebert but Williams, born in 1950 in Oberlin, Ohio now divides his time equally between New York and London and also leads a British band that has included the talents of Finn Peters (alto sax, flute), Josh Arcoleo (tenor sax), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (piano) and Sam Lasserson (double bass).

The UK group’s “Concert In The Amazon”, a live recording made at the Festival Amazonas in Manaus,  Brazil was the first release to appear on Williams’ own Willful Archives imprint and is a limited edition available only from Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s bookshop in London or directly from Williams or Lasserson. Similar arrangements apply to this second release in the Willful Archives series, another live recording that sees a merging of Williams’ British and American groups in the shape of a trio featuring O’Gallagher and Lasserson. “Valence”  presents the second of two shows that the trio played at Kulak in Baden, Switzerland on March 27 2014. Recorded by Lasserson the trio are captured in an intimate location with an appreciative audience and the music is heard exactly as it happened.

“Valence” is credited to its three participants equally -  as opposed to the Jeff Williams Trio. This is doubtless to emphasise the collaborative and interactive nature of the performance and the high degree of group improvisation involved. Nevertheless five of the six pieces come from the pen of Williams with the other coming from O’Gallagher. The themes come from all phases of Williams ’ solo career and they provide the launch pads for some pretty extensive bouts of group improvisation. Williams seems to enjoy playing music that lies on the cusp of composition and improvisation, witness his excellent contribution to the recent album “Immune To Clockwork” by the British bassist, composer and band leader Olie Brice.

Williams has an extensive pedigree of work as a cutting edge jazz musician. I first heard him on albums by saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach back in the 1970s and in more recent times have enjoyed his contributions to bands led by saxophonist Martin Speake, pianist Nikki Iles and the jazz composer and arranger Mike Gibbs. Williams’ sideman credits are extensive and include recordings by saxophonist Lee Konitz, pianist Paul Bley and many, many others.

Leaving past glories aside it’s time to concentrate on the music to be heard on “Valence” which begins with “Borderline”, a piece that first appeared on Williams’ 1998 album “Jazzblues”. His subtle hand drumming introduces the piece with O’Gallagher subsequently sketching the theme on alto. The rapport between Williams and O’Gallagher is immediately obvious and the dialogue between alto sax and drums is consistently absorbing with Williams conjuring an impressive array of sounds from his kit while maintaining the subtle polyrhythmic flow for which he is justly famed. Lasserson provides both a commentary and an anchor before assuming the lead himself, conversing musically with Williams as well as playing a lengthy passage of solo bass. Williams’ own solo is superbly constructed, deploying many different drum sounds and making particularly effective use of the toms. Finally the trio coalesce for a final restatement of the theme. An impressive start.

“Skullduggery” dates right back to Williams’ leadership début “Coalescence”, released in 1991. Introduced by Lasserson’s bass and with Williams’ initially playing on the rims the trio stay more focussed with O’Gallagher’s slyly sinuous sax snaking atmospherically through the piece and imbuing the performance with a subtle sense of unease.  As the tune progresses his playing becomes more animated before gently falling away as the piece resolves itself.

The understated air of brooding extends into “Under The Radar”, a tune of later vintage sourced from the “Another Time” album. The trio take this further out with Lasserson’s bass coming to the fore, expertly shadowed by Williams’ drums. The (comparatively) veteran American drummer has established a remarkable rapport with the young British bassist over the years and this is superbly demonstrated here. O’Gallagher then constructs his solo superbly building from pensive brooding to full on screaming as Williams’ drums match him every step of the way, rising to a volcanic peak before gracefully subsiding as the piece resolves itself.

O’Gallagher’s sole compositional credit is also sourced from “Another Time”. His atmospheric “Go Where You’re Watching” is the lengthiest cut on “Valence” and begins with an extended passage of solo alto saxophone. Pensive and ruminative at first it’s also hauntingly beautiful. One could have heard a pin drop at the club in which it was recorded. Eventually the sax is joined by the gentle brush of Williams’ cymbals and the almost subterranean rumble of Lasserson’s bass, the latter eventually taking over the lead with an understated but undeniably brilliant solo before O’Gallagher’s gently probing alto again resumes the lead, temporarily raising the intensity before bringing the piece almost full circle.

Dating back again to “Coalescence” Williams’ “The Messenger” is the composer’s tribute to the late, great Art Blakey. It begins appropriately enough with a mighty drum barrage before shading off into music that is the closest this trio are ever likely to get to bebop. In the main Williams’ music is closer in spirit to that of Ornette Coleman particularly with regard to Williams’ flexible approach to rhythm and meter, the kind of elasticity that helped to give the album “Another Time” its title. “The Messenger” is a memorable blend of the aesthetics of Blakey and Coleman with O’Gallagher delivering some of his most unfettered playing of the set and with Williams’ drumming a bubbling cauldron throughout. The audience loved it.

I’m assuming that the title “Double Life” is a reference to Williams’ Atlantic hopping existence. Presumably played as an encore it opens with a marathon solo from O’Gallagher at his most fluent and inventive as Lasserson and Williams stoke the fires. On what is essentially a blowing vehicle extended bass and drum features follow before the trio return to the theme. This second high octane offering certainly sent the Swiss crowd home happy.

When reviewing “Another Time” I cited Time Out NY’s reference to Williams’ “supple polyrhythmic flow” as well as making my own reference to his “constantly unfolding patterns of pulses, rhythms, colours and accents”.
All these qualities are present here in a superlative drumming performance that combines intuitively with the playing of his colleagues. O’Gallagher again distinguishes himself as one of the most distinctive alto saxophonists around and Lasserson’s exemplary performance helps to consolidate his “rising Star” status. “Valence” is an excellent team performance, an absorbing and thrilling example of the art of the trio.

“Valence” is available exclusively at Ray’s Jazz on the 3rd floor at Foyles Bookshop
113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB
+44 (0)20 7440 3205
http://www.foyles.co.uk/rays-jazz-classical-music

or from Jeff Williams at http://www.willfulmusic.com - which also contains an informative biography, discography, etc.

or from http://www.samlasserson.com

   

 

Valence

John O’Gallagher / Sam Lasserson / Jeff Williams

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Valence

An absorbing and thrilling example of the art of the trio.

John O’Gallagher / Sam Lasserson / Jeff Williams

“Valence”

(Willful Archives 002)

The drummer and composer Jeff Williams has been a fairly frequent presence on the Jazzmann web pages in recent years, most notably because of the release of two excellent albums on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind record label, the studio recording “Another Time” (2011) and the subsequent live follow up “The Listener” (2013). These records were made by the drummer’s American Quartet featuring alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and bassist John Hebert but Williams, born in 1950 in Oberlin, Ohio now divides his time equally between New York and London and also leads a British band that has included the talents of Finn Peters (alto sax, flute), Josh Arcoleo (tenor sax), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (piano) and Sam Lasserson (double bass).

The UK group’s “Concert In The Amazon”, a live recording made at the Festival Amazonas in Manaus,  Brazil was the first release to appear on Williams’ own Willful Archives imprint and is a limited edition available only from Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s bookshop in London or directly from Williams or Lasserson. Similar arrangements apply to this second release in the Willful Archives series, another live recording that sees a merging of Williams’ British and American groups in the shape of a trio featuring O’Gallagher and Lasserson. “Valence”  presents the second of two shows that the trio played at Kulak in Baden, Switzerland on March 27 2014. Recorded by Lasserson the trio are captured in an intimate location with an appreciative audience and the music is heard exactly as it happened.

“Valence” is credited to its three participants equally -  as opposed to the Jeff Williams Trio. This is doubtless to emphasise the collaborative and interactive nature of the performance and the high degree of group improvisation involved. Nevertheless five of the six pieces come from the pen of Williams with the other coming from O’Gallagher. The themes come from all phases of Williams ’ solo career and they provide the launch pads for some pretty extensive bouts of group improvisation. Williams seems to enjoy playing music that lies on the cusp of composition and improvisation, witness his excellent contribution to the recent album “Immune To Clockwork” by the British bassist, composer and band leader Olie Brice.

Williams has an extensive pedigree of work as a cutting edge jazz musician. I first heard him on albums by saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach back in the 1970s and in more recent times have enjoyed his contributions to bands led by saxophonist Martin Speake, pianist Nikki Iles and the jazz composer and arranger Mike Gibbs. Williams’ sideman credits are extensive and include recordings by saxophonist Lee Konitz, pianist Paul Bley and many, many others.

Leaving past glories aside it’s time to concentrate on the music to be heard on “Valence” which begins with “Borderline”, a piece that first appeared on Williams’ 1998 album “Jazzblues”. His subtle hand drumming introduces the piece with O’Gallagher subsequently sketching the theme on alto. The rapport between Williams and O’Gallagher is immediately obvious and the dialogue between alto sax and drums is consistently absorbing with Williams conjuring an impressive array of sounds from his kit while maintaining the subtle polyrhythmic flow for which he is justly famed. Lasserson provides both a commentary and an anchor before assuming the lead himself, conversing musically with Williams as well as playing a lengthy passage of solo bass. Williams’ own solo is superbly constructed, deploying many different drum sounds and making particularly effective use of the toms. Finally the trio coalesce for a final restatement of the theme. An impressive start.

“Skullduggery” dates right back to Williams’ leadership début “Coalescence”, released in 1991. Introduced by Lasserson’s bass and with Williams’ initially playing on the rims the trio stay more focussed with O’Gallagher’s slyly sinuous sax snaking atmospherically through the piece and imbuing the performance with a subtle sense of unease.  As the tune progresses his playing becomes more animated before gently falling away as the piece resolves itself.

The understated air of brooding extends into “Under The Radar”, a tune of later vintage sourced from the “Another Time” album. The trio take this further out with Lasserson’s bass coming to the fore, expertly shadowed by Williams’ drums. The (comparatively) veteran American drummer has established a remarkable rapport with the young British bassist over the years and this is superbly demonstrated here. O’Gallagher then constructs his solo superbly building from pensive brooding to full on screaming as Williams’ drums match him every step of the way, rising to a volcanic peak before gracefully subsiding as the piece resolves itself.

O’Gallagher’s sole compositional credit is also sourced from “Another Time”. His atmospheric “Go Where You’re Watching” is the lengthiest cut on “Valence” and begins with an extended passage of solo alto saxophone. Pensive and ruminative at first it’s also hauntingly beautiful. One could have heard a pin drop at the club in which it was recorded. Eventually the sax is joined by the gentle brush of Williams’ cymbals and the almost subterranean rumble of Lasserson’s bass, the latter eventually taking over the lead with an understated but undeniably brilliant solo before O’Gallagher’s gently probing alto again resumes the lead, temporarily raising the intensity before bringing the piece almost full circle.

Dating back again to “Coalescence” Williams’ “The Messenger” is the composer’s tribute to the late, great Art Blakey. It begins appropriately enough with a mighty drum barrage before shading off into music that is the closest this trio are ever likely to get to bebop. In the main Williams’ music is closer in spirit to that of Ornette Coleman particularly with regard to Williams’ flexible approach to rhythm and meter, the kind of elasticity that helped to give the album “Another Time” its title. “The Messenger” is a memorable blend of the aesthetics of Blakey and Coleman with O’Gallagher delivering some of his most unfettered playing of the set and with Williams’ drumming a bubbling cauldron throughout. The audience loved it.

I’m assuming that the title “Double Life” is a reference to Williams’ Atlantic hopping existence. Presumably played as an encore it opens with a marathon solo from O’Gallagher at his most fluent and inventive as Lasserson and Williams stoke the fires. On what is essentially a blowing vehicle extended bass and drum features follow before the trio return to the theme. This second high octane offering certainly sent the Swiss crowd home happy.

When reviewing “Another Time” I cited Time Out NY’s reference to Williams’ “supple polyrhythmic flow” as well as making my own reference to his “constantly unfolding patterns of pulses, rhythms, colours and accents”.
All these qualities are present here in a superlative drumming performance that combines intuitively with the playing of his colleagues. O’Gallagher again distinguishes himself as one of the most distinctive alto saxophonists around and Lasserson’s exemplary performance helps to consolidate his “rising Star” status. “Valence” is an excellent team performance, an absorbing and thrilling example of the art of the trio.

“Valence” is available exclusively at Ray’s Jazz on the 3rd floor at Foyles Bookshop
113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB
+44 (0)20 7440 3205
http://www.foyles.co.uk/rays-jazz-classical-music

or from Jeff Williams at http://www.willfulmusic.com - which also contains an informative biography, discography, etc.

or from http://www.samlasserson.com

   

 


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