Jeff Williams Quartet

Jeff Williams Quartet

Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
23rd November 2016

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

World renowned drummer and jazz composer, Jeff Williams strode onto stage wearing a trademark downmarket coat and cap to be followed by the other members of tonight’s quartet, Sam Lasserson bass, John O’Gallagher alto saxophone and Josh Arcoleo, tenor saxophone.

In front of a bitty audience he berated the bad road journey up from London to the Capstone and mused philosophically on why people a lot nearer the Theatre had not turned out to see his group perform. It soon became clear that it would be their loss as the collective broke into tracks inspired by the recent Outlier CD.

The avuncular drummer, with the aid of a synthesised sound trigger, led on his symbols to caramel smooth intro’s from the rest of the combo before the saxes found their feet and the expressive bass led them all into more extreme territory.

A jungle drums theme unfurled to raucous calls from the alto sax, stentorian and animalistic at the same time, before Arcoleo went elemental on his own visit to the well of inspiration. Such was the intensity that O’Gallagher had to change his instrument’s mouthpiece. Williams’s drums had been pretty quiescent throughout (he could have been playing the pub circuit), but Lasserson’s brilliant finger technique was not slow incoming to the party.

The trio alongside Williams were playing free jazz having sheet music in front of them equating to Williams’s form, structure and pattern, but given over ultimately to their individual extemporisation.

An impomptu phone call saw the leader leave the stage while the remaining players triangulated to silky effect, the articulation from the bassist, brilliant. Williams came back but lanquished in the wake of tight sax interplay before finally joining in the act.

The next work,(titles had been few and far between) provided an orchestra’s worth of sound, the tenor sax in particularly high octane mode before Donald Trump came up in the introduction to Borderline.

Williams is concerned about the realities of population migrations in an increasingly troubled and unstable world and The Hunt(echoing Miles Davis), saw the alto sax chase down it’s ‘stag’ with an intensity of squealing and breath controlled pandemonium. Tenor sax and the bass were given their heads too, before all were stood down by the decelerating drums.

The set was coming to an end when Williams finally opened up to wild applause and all showed off how good they were as an ear-splitting crescendo ensued. That was it apart from an eloquent wind down coda. They went off to enthusiastic applause but there was no encore; signing his CD’s for the faithful uppermost in the leader’s mind.

The sound technician deserved fulsome credit for his part too, but it was the finger techique of the bassist and the timbre of his instrument that stole the show for me. It had been a great night out.

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