A TOP RECORDING OF 2015. A WRTI CD RECOMMENDATION. It was easy to see why Ben Williams’ debut, State Of Art (Concord, 2011), made such a splash. It had a deserved buzz around a rising talent and remains a primer for how to make a modern jazz record. Since then, besides heavy side gigging and touring with his Sound Effect band (Christian Sands, Marcus Strickland, Matthew Stevens and John Davis), the 30-year-old Williams had a key role in Pat Metheny’s Unity Group – the band played over 150 shows internationally in 2013. That’s a lot of experience in a compressed time frame, so it’s not surprising his follow up, Coming Of Age, is a rush of pleasure from beginning to end. Read my full review at www.wrti.org
Without a doubt, drummer Otis Brown III is narrowing the divide that keeps jazz segregated from mainstream (read: marketable) recordings. Brown’s terrific debut, The Thought Of You, is a collaborative production from Revive Music and Blue Note and it’s a winner as fitting a release on the classic Blue Note label as anything they released in the ‘60s. The innovative drummer’s facility and outsized talent was already apparent backing Joe Lovano’s Us Five band, Terence Blanchard and Oliver Lake over the last few years. Continue reading
Philadelphia-born pianist Eric Reed grew up playing in his father’s storefront Baptist church and was discovered to be a child prodigy at age two. He was steered away from gospel and church music to classical, but dug jazz so much after hearing Art Tatum and Ramsey Lewis that he devoted himself to a different kind of soul music. He recounts in his bio that “I wasn’t interested in practicing Bach; I was too busy digging Horace Silver!” Fast forward to a call from Wynton Marsalis inviting Reed to tour with his band, a gig that lasted from 1990- 1995 and established the pianist as a first-rate player, bandleader and educator as well an artist with more than 25 solo recordings to his credit.