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The Mark Williams Trio - Last Bus To Bensham Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive offering from Williams and one that showcases his abilities as both a guitarist and a composer.

The Mark Williams Trio

“Last Bus To Bensham”

(Self Released)

Originally from Belfast guitarist and composer Mark Williams came to England in 1999 to study for a degree in Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music at Newcastle University. After graduating with honours he remained in the North East and has developed into one of the region’s most celebrated contemporary musicians, both as a first call sideman and as a significant collaborator with many of the area’s leading jazz performers.

Williams has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as part of groups led by vocalist and songwriter Zoe Gilby and his playing features on her two most recent albums “Looking Glass” (2010 ) and “Twelve Stories” (2013). The guitarist has also been part of the song writing process, co-authoring a number of songs in conjunction with Gilby and bassist Andy Champion.

Williams was also a member of Champion’s prog jazz quintet ACV, which released the albums “Fail In Wood” (2010) and the excellent “Busk” which appeared on the Babel label in 2013. Sadly this particular unit now appears to be defunct.

Currently Williams is also a member of the Riviera Quartet which he co-leads with trumpeter Pete Tanton and the trio Leash featuring Champion and one time Back Door drummer Adrian Tilbrook. There’s also the MoHaWi Trio featuring trumpeter Graham Hardy and drummer Russ Morgan and Grandma, a duo featuring Williams and saxophonist Graeme Wilson.

However Williams’ main creative outlet remains his own trio, formed in 2006 and currently featuring Russ Morgan at the drums and Paul Susans on acoustic and electric bass. Their début album “Balaclava Street” was released in 2007 and “Last Bus To Bensham” therefore represents a very long awaited follow up. Despite the hiatus the trio have continued to gig consistently in the North East and Williams has also composed a set of excellent new material.

The new album commences with the title track, named after a district of Gateshead. It’s a muscular piece with passages of chunky, angular riffing alternating with more abstract, impressionistic passages featuring Williams’ inventive use of a variety of effects. On occasion the stop-start structure of the music is genuinely reminiscent of a bus journey with the abrasiveness of the playing also imparting a dangerous edge. The late bus, in any part of the country, isn’t always the safest or most comfortable place to be. Williams’ playing is outstanding, but Susans and Morgan also make important contributions with the drummer enjoying something of a feature during the latter stages of the journey.

“Weird Waltz” begins with the gentle sounds of Williams’ unaccompanied, arpeggiated guitar, subsequently joined by acoustic bass and brushed drums. At this stage the music still sounds like a relatively conventional guitar trio and the first solo goes to Susans on melodic, but resonant double bass. But deeper currents lurk below the surface, gradually emerging as Williams stretches out on guitar, again deploying his range of effects judiciously.

“Good Answer” begins in impressionistic fashion, softly ambient and noirish, before metamorphosing into a Bill Frisell like ballad with a memorable melody, plenty of guitar twang and an undulating brushed drum groove. There’s also a fluent double bass solo from the highly accomplished Susans, with melody and a deep resonance again going hand in hand.

“Scoff In Peace” finds Williams soloing fluently and at length and also features Susans demonstrating his considerable capabilities on electric bass. The latter stages of the tune feature the guitarist cranking up his amp as the trio briefly go into riff based overdrive.

“By The Bye” is gentler, another excursion into Frisell/Metheny territory with Williams’ melodic, softly keening guitar accompanied by acoustic bass and brushed drums with Susans again featuring as a soloist.

The urgent “Near Nuff” sees the trio striking out into rock influenced waters once more with the taut, angular riffing of the intro. Williams’ subsequent solo above a brisk, bustling bass and drum groove incorporates sophisticated jazz chording and mercurial single note runs. Morgan makes a particularly significant contribution and his colourful playing is strongly featured in the latter stages of the tune.

“By The By Revisited” then offers a brief reprise of the earlier piece before the album closes with “Adare Say”, an elegant, atmospheric ballad, again reminiscent of Metheny and Frisell, and featuring delightfully melodic solos from Williams on guitar and Susans on acoustic bass plus Morgan’s subtly brushed drum undertow.

“Last Bus To Bensham” represents an impressive offering from Williams and one that showcases his abilities as both a guitarist and a composer. It’s a strong and varied collection of themes and the playing by all three musicians is excellent throughout, both on the harder, rock influenced pieces and the gentler, more atmospheric items. Although it’s unmistakably Williams’ band the trio is a well balanced unit with both Susans and Morgan given sufficient opportunity to express themselves.Meanwhile the leader deploys a variety of guitar styles, uses his effects wisely and delivers a sound that is consistently engaging to the listener. As a technician he’s up there among the best of them.

It may have been a long time coming but the “Last Bus To Bensham” is a transport of delight that has been well worth waiting for.

“Last Bus To Bensham” can be purchsed via Mark’s website http://www.markwilliamsguitarist.com

Last Bus To Bensham

The Mark Williams Trio

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Last Bus To Bensham

An impressive offering from Williams and one that showcases his abilities as both a guitarist and a composer.

The Mark Williams Trio

“Last Bus To Bensham”

(Self Released)

Originally from Belfast guitarist and composer Mark Williams came to England in 1999 to study for a degree in Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music at Newcastle University. After graduating with honours he remained in the North East and has developed into one of the region’s most celebrated contemporary musicians, both as a first call sideman and as a significant collaborator with many of the area’s leading jazz performers.

Williams has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as part of groups led by vocalist and songwriter Zoe Gilby and his playing features on her two most recent albums “Looking Glass” (2010 ) and “Twelve Stories” (2013). The guitarist has also been part of the song writing process, co-authoring a number of songs in conjunction with Gilby and bassist Andy Champion.

Williams was also a member of Champion’s prog jazz quintet ACV, which released the albums “Fail In Wood” (2010) and the excellent “Busk” which appeared on the Babel label in 2013. Sadly this particular unit now appears to be defunct.

Currently Williams is also a member of the Riviera Quartet which he co-leads with trumpeter Pete Tanton and the trio Leash featuring Champion and one time Back Door drummer Adrian Tilbrook. There’s also the MoHaWi Trio featuring trumpeter Graham Hardy and drummer Russ Morgan and Grandma, a duo featuring Williams and saxophonist Graeme Wilson.

However Williams’ main creative outlet remains his own trio, formed in 2006 and currently featuring Russ Morgan at the drums and Paul Susans on acoustic and electric bass. Their début album “Balaclava Street” was released in 2007 and “Last Bus To Bensham” therefore represents a very long awaited follow up. Despite the hiatus the trio have continued to gig consistently in the North East and Williams has also composed a set of excellent new material.

The new album commences with the title track, named after a district of Gateshead. It’s a muscular piece with passages of chunky, angular riffing alternating with more abstract, impressionistic passages featuring Williams’ inventive use of a variety of effects. On occasion the stop-start structure of the music is genuinely reminiscent of a bus journey with the abrasiveness of the playing also imparting a dangerous edge. The late bus, in any part of the country, isn’t always the safest or most comfortable place to be. Williams’ playing is outstanding, but Susans and Morgan also make important contributions with the drummer enjoying something of a feature during the latter stages of the journey.

“Weird Waltz” begins with the gentle sounds of Williams’ unaccompanied, arpeggiated guitar, subsequently joined by acoustic bass and brushed drums. At this stage the music still sounds like a relatively conventional guitar trio and the first solo goes to Susans on melodic, but resonant double bass. But deeper currents lurk below the surface, gradually emerging as Williams stretches out on guitar, again deploying his range of effects judiciously.

“Good Answer” begins in impressionistic fashion, softly ambient and noirish, before metamorphosing into a Bill Frisell like ballad with a memorable melody, plenty of guitar twang and an undulating brushed drum groove. There’s also a fluent double bass solo from the highly accomplished Susans, with melody and a deep resonance again going hand in hand.

“Scoff In Peace” finds Williams soloing fluently and at length and also features Susans demonstrating his considerable capabilities on electric bass. The latter stages of the tune feature the guitarist cranking up his amp as the trio briefly go into riff based overdrive.

“By The Bye” is gentler, another excursion into Frisell/Metheny territory with Williams’ melodic, softly keening guitar accompanied by acoustic bass and brushed drums with Susans again featuring as a soloist.

The urgent “Near Nuff” sees the trio striking out into rock influenced waters once more with the taut, angular riffing of the intro. Williams’ subsequent solo above a brisk, bustling bass and drum groove incorporates sophisticated jazz chording and mercurial single note runs. Morgan makes a particularly significant contribution and his colourful playing is strongly featured in the latter stages of the tune.

“By The By Revisited” then offers a brief reprise of the earlier piece before the album closes with “Adare Say”, an elegant, atmospheric ballad, again reminiscent of Metheny and Frisell, and featuring delightfully melodic solos from Williams on guitar and Susans on acoustic bass plus Morgan’s subtly brushed drum undertow.

“Last Bus To Bensham” represents an impressive offering from Williams and one that showcases his abilities as both a guitarist and a composer. It’s a strong and varied collection of themes and the playing by all three musicians is excellent throughout, both on the harder, rock influenced pieces and the gentler, more atmospheric items. Although it’s unmistakably Williams’ band the trio is a well balanced unit with both Susans and Morgan given sufficient opportunity to express themselves.Meanwhile the leader deploys a variety of guitar styles, uses his effects wisely and delivers a sound that is consistently engaging to the listener. As a technician he’s up there among the best of them.

It may have been a long time coming but the “Last Bus To Bensham” is a transport of delight that has been well worth waiting for.

“Last Bus To Bensham” can be purchsed via Mark’s website http://www.markwilliamsguitarist.com


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