It was easy to see why bassist Ben Williams’s debut CD State of Art made such a splash. It had a deserved buzz around a rising talent, and remains a primer for how to make a modern jazz record.
Since then, besides heavy side-gigging and touring with his band as Ben Williams and Sound Effect (Christian Sands, Marcus Strickland, Matthew Stevens, and John Davis), the 30-year-old had a key role in the Pat Metheny Unity Group. The band played over 150 shows internationally in 2013, which is a lot of experience in a compressed time frame.
So it’s not surprising that his follow-up CD, Coming of Age, is a rush of pleasure from beginning to end.
A taste of the new Ben Williams CD, Coming of Age:
The highly-disciplined Williams, a Juilliard graduate and winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition, weds fresh jazz to pop and R&B on seriously engaging tunes that hum and heave from his nimble bass whether he’s on acoustic or electric. The record is backboned by tracks that electrify (“Strength and Beauty”) and groove (“Half Steppin’”), yet his vocal collaborations with soul singer Goapele (“Voice of Freedom”) and a reprise of a track called “Toy Soldiers” with rap/spoken-word artist W. Ellington Felton satisfy the de rigueur groove revivalism and album’s crossover appeal.
Instrumentals like “Black Villain Music” and the sweet gloss of strings and muted trumpet by guest Christian Scott on “Lost And Found” will satisfy on multiple spins, but it’s the keyed-up guitar solos, funky electric piano, sonorous sax, and wicked beats that give Coming of Age its more-than-just-jazz appeal.
It’s a contagious hang, fueled by virtuosity and vision along with Williams’s canny sense of music-making.
This article is from the May 2015 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More information.