Sunday, June 26, 2011

NEW LION

After graduating from Michigan State University and winning the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Competition for Double Bass, Ben William became sought after, playing on two important albums for Concord Records Stefon Harris’s Urbanus and Jacky Terrasson’s Push. On June 28, William’s debut album State of Art will go on sale nationwide.

State of Art is Williams’s first go round as a leader, and he takes some risks. Williams successfully blends hip-hop, R&B, and classical music. That’s a lot of calories to consume on a debut.

William’s staff saxophone player Marcus Strickland and piano player Gerald Clayton are bandleaders, and they have more work experience. Neither has any issue working for an inexperienced boss.

Clayton soars like a hang glider on Mr. Dynamite. Strickland has a tone fattier than cheesecake on Moontrane and This Don’t Exist. Williams plays with a puppy love kind of charm and innocence on Little Suzie Intro.

How is Williams as the boss? Williams is the kind of boss every dedicated employee wants. Williams shows complete faith in staff. State of Art is as much about them as it’s about Williams.

Lee Morgan Story is the only stain on State of Art. Rapper John Robinson raps about Morgan’s life story while trumpeter Christian Scott apes Morgan’s style. A rapper reciting Morgan’s life story seems like a novel concept on paper. On State of Art, the song seems misplaced.

At Michigan State University, Williams was exposed to jazz bass player Rodney Whitaker. Whitaker runs the university’s jazz studies program. Whitaker’s gentlemanly manner of playing the bass rubbed off on Williams.
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