anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius
It's not much of a reach to say there's a certain special kind of new crop coming up in jazz. In all of the ballyhoo about jazz's constant death (which seems to have the ongoing vigor of Larry King), the flow of talent has remained just as strident. Yet there's something about certain folks around today who seem like a special crop. I dare not besmirch them with the name "Young Lions" (we don't need a mess [or crop of ego] like that again), but folks like Ben Williams seem to have risen up quite suddenly to worthy acclaim. The man has already set in some good time with pianist Jacky Terrason's trio alongside drummer Jamire Williams. It seemed only natural for this bassist to eventually stand out in front.
Williams' State of Art is a quite strong debut album. The group of players with buzz all their own includes Gerald Clayton on piano (who has garnered our love and affection recently with his own recently released album), Matthew Stevens on guitar, Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano saxophone, the aforementioned Jamire Williams on drums, and Etienne Charles on percussion. Add to the mix Jaleel Shaw on alto and soprano sax for select tracks and emcee John Robinson & trumpeter Christian Scott on "The Lee Morgan Story", a rap telling the biography of bebop trumpeter Lee Morgan (without it becoming some hokey, Miles' Doo-Bop-esque affair) and this album becomes a highlight of 2011. Each track is most certainly jazz but is lightly tinged with a hip-hop/R&B sensibility one would expect from any richly appreciative ear of this day while still not losing the core sound of the genre. State of Art is sure to receive laudation and you should have a chance to hear why.
We're more than happy and appreciative to let you give State of Art a listen this week.