by Icrom Bigrad
Charles Anthony “Buster” Williams is a Grammy-nominated bassist, composer and arranger that has been holding the bass function down with character and solidity for singers such as: Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, to exploring the envelope of jazz’s new territory with Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi band to Miles Davis to Art Blakey. The bassist has conceived an album that celebrates the milestone of his 75th birthday entitled, Audacity (Smoke Sessions Records). This is Williams’ first album as a leader since 2004’s Griot Liberte. In addition to his own compositions, Williams urged each of his bandmates to contribute new tunes for the session. Leading his long-running all-star quartet consisting of: saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist George Colligan and drummer Lenny White, they turn in nine tracks that are exactly what would be expected from this formidable quartet, and that is, enjoyable hard swinging jazz with the ever-present energy of new excitement.
Audacity gets right to the point and begins with “Where Giants Dwell,” a medium up-tempo swing feel underpins the post-bop melody played by Wilson. Williams starts off from the downbeat playing in four, no two feel here, just getting to meat of the matter and swinging! This quartet does swing, Williams and White have been playing together for a long time, and the pulse they create is a mile wide and feels amazing! The composition transitions through feel changes with some pedal-points and band hits that keep the energy flowing and an object of interest. Wilson’s solo is melodic and impassioned as he builds with the quartet, the group energy is evident. Colligan’s mastery of space, tension and release is wonderful, his single lines weave in and out of vast, powerful voicings. This cut certainly establishes the superior jazz language that intertwines this quartet.
The exotic theme of “Song of the Outcasts” starts with a colorful solo piano intro that eventually leads to an exotic theme that is hauntingly beautiful. The composition flows through tempo twists that develop into an intense driving swing with creative solos by Colligan and Wilson. We are taken back to the relaxed feel of the original them for Williams’ expressive solo. Williams and White create such an anchored pulse no matter the feel or tempo, it’s magical.
Audacity is a declamatory representation of the feeling that can be created in the jazz narrative by a joyous and agile group of players that are pushing boldly forward. Highly recommended.