Veteran drummer Jeff Williams is the driving force behind Valence, an album of originals performed with bassist Sam Lasserson and John O’Gallagher, the former from his London-based group, the latter from his North American quartet. Recorded live in Switzerland, the CD lacks the fidelity of a studio date but more than compensates with high-energy performances. “Borderline”, the calypso-esque opener with a repetitive bluesy theme, shows the group’s taste for chromatic melodic architecture. “Skullduggery”, another repetitive theme, features a beautifully constructed alto solo capped by Williams’ tasteful cross-sticked coda. Lasserman breaks up the beats of “Under the Radar” with subtle unorthodox accents. “Go Where You’re Watching” (O’Gallagher’s sole contribution) begins with a four-and-a-half-minute alto soliloquy that sustains considerable interest without forcing its hand, followed by an equally compelling bass feature. Williams plays with brio throughout, but is especially edgy on “The Messenger”, where he seems to clip his phrases and delivers an extended thematic solo. “Double Life”, the final track, contains another rigorously structured, through- phrased solo by O’Gallagher, followed by a bass solo that sounds as if Lasserson is having a conversation with himself, then a double-cadenza finish. To judge from the band’s laughter, it was a fun gig.
In a career spanning four decades drummer Jeff Williams' musical associates have included Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman and Lookout Farm, Joe Lovano, Paul Bley, Bill McHenry, Ethan Iverson, Tony Malaby, and many more. During the 1990's Jeff performed with his own quintet and released two CDs of original compositions: Coalescence (SteepleChase) and Jazzblues (Cathexis). Since 2007 he has been based both in New York and London. In the UK Jeff has performed with Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, and has toured with McHenry, Konitz, the Phil Robson/Dave Liebman Quartet, and Martin Speake's Change of Heart (with Bobo Stenson). Jeff has also collaborated with The Hans Koller Quartet, Sextet and Big Band, Mike Gibbs Big Band, Nikki Iles, Kit Downes, Mike Fletcher, Olie Brice, Alex Bonney, Alex Merritt, Barry Green and more.
Jeff's UK Quintet with Finn Peters-alto saxophone and flute, Josh Arcoleo-tenor saxophone, Phil Robson-guitar and Sam Lasserson-bass performed at the Festival Amazonas Jazz in Manaus, Brazil in July 2013 and have appeared at the London Jazz Festival for the last four years.
"This had been an excellent show, occasionally poignant but more often highly exciting with some exceptional playing all round. However it was Williams intelligent writing and perceptive prompting from behind the kit that set the tone for the performance."
Lee Konitz was one of the first iconic saxophonists I was fortunate to play with when I arrived in New York in the early 1970s. Lee heard me with Stan Getz and asked me to play with him at the Half Note, a thrill in itself. Over the years we have played in all sorts of situations and in many countries. I have also recorded with him on several occasions. In every case I learned more from him about the art of improvisation and the importance of sound than from anyone. He is a brave and true improvisor. First Meeting is the latest installment of our association, my longest lasting. Thanks to Michael Janisch for putting it together, and, along with Dan Tepfer, for creating a rhythm section up to the task of Lee's adventures. -Jeff Williams
In New York Jeff performs with his US Quartet featuring Duane Eubanks, John O'Gallagher and John Hébert The group toured the United Kingdom in May 2012 and recorded
"Human scale live recording Williams superbly Motian-like in one of the most considered albums of the year."
The Listener is a logical extension of its two-years-older studio sibling, but it's not the same; these four men have extended the boundaries of their own work and strengthened the connective tissue that binds them. Williams' work with this quartet is special and deserves continued exploration." -All About Jazz
"The Listener's cutting-edge expertise and unwavering emphasis on improvisation makes this thoroughly contemporary music...It's a set of hot-and-cool Ornette Colemanesque themes, hip postbop and slow-burn reflections performed, on this live recording, by Williams' New York quartet." 4 Stars, The Guardian
"Music that seethes with intelligence, creativity and zest. This is a glorious record, varied, full of subtleties and surprises. Remember those days when you were in a record shop and your heard a track that was a must-buy and you couldn't rest until you had the CD. The Listener is like that." Jazz Views
"Jeff Williams has honed a sound that seamlessly blends a sinewy, propulsive rhythmic sense with a masterful appreciation of space and atmosphere. On Another Time, Williams leads a remarkable group through a series of original compositions that are prefect vehicles for the veteran drummer's singular approach, as well as the quartet's consistently inspired improvisations." --Matthew Miller The New York City Jazz Record
**** "...The ease of movement between ambiguously floating rhythms and snappy polyrhythmic swing is seductive...these elegantly intricate deliberations make for absorbing contemporary jazz." --John Fordham The Guardian