Paul Williamson Quartet
Review by Samuel Cottell
Trumpeter Paul Williamson has an incredible ability to create diverse musical landscapes with other performers. His previous album, Connect Four, saw him engage with four different pianists and create some exciting music. In the follow up to Connect Four, The Paul Williamson Quartet: LIVE (his ninth album) explores collective improvisation, in intricate detail. Bringing together some of Australia’s finest musicians, all of whom have crafted their own improvisational styles, this is a fine example of their individual and collective artistry. A spirited and adventurous recording comprised of live material from performances at Bennett’s Lane and Uptown Jazz Café, LIVE allows Williamson and his colleagues the opportunity to present longer improvisations and explorations generally not afforded on studio recordings.
The album aptly commences with the Miles Davis classic, Tune Up. Williamson’s trumpet line creates a charged atmosphere from the start, setting the pace that allows for each of the musicians to test grounds and explore the dynamics of the group; a series of shifts in colour and texture lets the band make the most of the composition, while Sam Pankhurst’s bass work easily stands out.
Changing the pace, Stompin’ At The Savoy begins with an open dialogue between the piano and the trumpet, setting up a conversation that provides us with glimpses of the classic melody. Allan Browne, on drums, emerges from underneath the texture swinging his solo, while remnants of the opening dialogue are kept between the trumpet and the piano as the energy pulses and Browne sizzles on the kit.
Marc Hannaford, who has researched and utilised the use of Elliot Carter’s rhythmic ideas for jazz improvisation, pushes the boundaries throughout these performances. Sparkling in If I Were A Bell, Hannaford pours out detailed, crisp and intricate lines that criss-cross and weave their way through the harmonies of the song, stretching the material to exciting dimensions.
Winding down to a more subdued mood, the song fades away and sets us up for an extended piano feature on You’re My Everything. In keeping with the reflective mood, Marc Hannaford, like Williamson, treats the melody with his signature sound, stretching the rhythmic and harmonic territory. This solitary vibe continues before Williamson enters with a lush and mellow tone.
Concluding with the high energy Thelonious Monk standard Rhythm A Ning, the group weaves together a tapestry of colours. Williamson commences by playing fragments from the tune and then launching into the stratosphere as Browne, Pankhurst and Hannaford set up the groove before Williamson re-enters with a swinging rendition of the melody. The trio behind him ease off before returning to their swing feel. Hannaford’s light interjections add the perfect colour to Williamson’s intricate lines. Featured solos by Pankhurst and Browne unfold, interjected with cheers and clapping from the eager audience, leading to an ecstatic ending.
The tunes presented here are a selection of choice jazz standards, hardly an innovative concept for jazz musicians. However, they’re brilliantly set to good use here, being the basis for a free dialogue among the musicians. This is more than just improvising on the form, it is a recording of complementary conceptions. There are no clichés here.
Paul Williamson: trumpet
Mark Hannaford: piano
Sam Pankhurst: bass
Allan Browne: drums