Album Review: Jeff Williams – Lifelike
Jeff William’s contribution to jazz history stretches back to his epochal 1970s collaboration with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach’s Lookout Farm, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. This recording follows on from 2016s well-received Outlier; in a kind of trans-atlantic talent swap, guitarist Phil Robson has moved to New York and is replaced by Brooklyn native O’Gallagher who has recently relocated to the UK and contributes a cutting power and unpredictability throughout, notably in his Dolphy-esque solo on to The Interloper. The two-horn frontline with Arcoleo is a real success, creating a sonorous weight that strengthens the stark, powerful melodies of Under The Radar and Dream Visitor so that they float impressively above William’s powerful, restless drumming. While the majority of the band are european (trumpeter Marquez hails from Portugal and contributes the contrastingly introspective Cancao De Amolador) there’s an all-out swaggering energy to these performances that feels very NYC, tapping back to the era of Jack DeJohnette’s collaborations with David Murray and Arthur Blythe, when post-bop and free were mixed up to explosive effect. Arcoleo especially rises to the occasion, contributing scorching work on the urgently pulsing Dream Visitor – Kit Downes is wonderfully expressive and imaginative in support throughout, and his intensity in solo matches the horns. The writing is free-ranging, with lots of exploration at the edges of free-form, but the melodies and structures are satisfyingly memorable and direct throughout – Dream Visitor builds over a throbbing pulse to a cathartic, wailing blues-inflected climax. Lament has a stately introduction from the remarkable Lasserson, and Borderline has a sprightly, Monkish feel. Some of the tunes have been heard before in other contexts but all are enriched by the expanded line-up and the ferocious energy that all the players bring to this collection of live recordings from the Vortex on a June night last year. Highly recommended.
Jeff Williams, drums; Goncalo Marquez, trumpet; John O’Gallagher, alto sax; Josh Arcoleo, tenor sax; Kit Downes, piano; Sam Lasserson, bass.
(Jeff Williams appears at The Verdict, Brighton on Friday 6th April, 2018)