Audacity. It’s a word that seems ideally suited to the bold and intrepid bassist Buster Williams. Whether supplying tasteful bass-lines for singers like Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, or venturing into uncharted new territory as a member of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi band, Buster Williams’ playing has always evidenced a willingness to leap without hesitation into the unknown.
Last year Williams celebrated his 75th birthday and to mark this milestone he took his long-running all-star quartet with saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist George Colligan and drummer Lenny White into the studio. The result, an album due out June 15 via Smoke Sessions Records, titled “Audacity”. This release breaks a decade Long Studio Hiatus and is his first full album as a leader since the 2004 release “Griot Liberte”.
“You’ve got to have audacity to do what we do,” Williams says of the title. “You have to have audacity to even want to do what we do, to even imagine that it’s all going to work. I was looking for a word that could encapsulate all of my feelings and concepts and, at this moment in time, Audacity is the description of my life.”
Williams said his decade-long absence from the new release list was caused in large part by the seismic shifts in the record industry since the dawn of the new millennium. He was also driven by the continuing evolution of his long-running band, which had developed a fiery and wide-ranging sound that Williams felt needed to be captured. The release of Audacity, he says, will launch him on a new trajectory.
“You could say it’s a new beginning,” he explains. “It’s certainly a new dimension or a new phase of my existence. There’s a new excitement about what I’m doing. I don’t take one note for granted, so I have to really feel that I have something to say or something to offer. Put all that together and I thought that now was the right time.”
In his liner notes, pianist George Colligan said of the long standing quartet “We have the ability to play with maturity, with restraint when necessary. But we can also play with the abandon expected from musicians in their 20′s. There is a wide variety of tempos, dynamics, moods, and textures in this music. This is not a soundbite. It’s a sound journey… Regardless of whether we are swinging hard, or playing a waltz, or a sensitive ballad, or something with a Latin tinge, we sound like a band.”
The collaboration of Buster Williams and Lenny White is notable in its own right, having anchored not only each other’s bands but groups led by Wallace Roney, Cyrus Chestnut, and a number of others. “It’s been magical,” Williams says of his partnership with the drummer. “When I play with Lenny, I have no real concerns. Whatever he does, the pulse, the beat, the time is always going to be there. It’s 99% pure. I’m free to explore and to do different things that I may not be able to do with other people, and he’s free to do the same. And bottom line, it just swings.”
In addition to his own compositions, Williams urged each of his band mates to contribute new tunes for the session. Wilson is represented by “Sisko,” a muscular swinger that weaves his sinuous alto over a roiling, surging groove. Colligan’s “Lost on 4th Avenue,” with its declamatory opening bass solo, relates the feeling of wandering through a mysterious urban landscape in a raptly narrative fashion, while White’s “Stumblin’” is a joyous romp that draws fleet, agile expression from all four players.
All together, the album title Audacity could serve to define the word itself. “If I only do what I know,” he says, “that’s like holding a nickel tightly in my fist: I won’t lose that nickel, but I’ll never have a dime. I’m always looking for something beyond what I know, what I can comprehend and what I understand.”
Label: Smoke Sessions Records
Format: CD | Vinyl | Digital
Release Date: 15 June 2018
Buster Williams, Bass | Steve Wilson, Sax | George Colligan, Piano | Lenny White, Drums