It goes without saying that throughout the course of his decades long career, bassist Buster Williams has made quite the name for himself and then some within the jazz community. From working with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, and Art Blakey to serving as a band leader himself ever since 1975, Williams has more than made his place among the elite of the jazz community, and with good reason. This past Friday, he continued to carve out that place within the genre’s upper echelon when he released his latest album, Unalome through Smoke Sessions Records. Composed of eight songs, the 51-minute record offers a fully engaging blend of originals and covers, all of which are accented by the professional performances of Williams and the performers Williams assembled for the recording. The songs featured here present such a wide range of emotions and moods along with equally impressive musicianship from the collective. One of the most notable of the originals featured here is the record’s midpoint, ‘In The Middle of a Rainbow.’ This song will be discussed shortly. The group’s take of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s ‘42nd Street’ is definitely of note in looking at the covers featured here. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Stairways,’ which opens the album, is another notable original worth examining. It will be discussed later, too. Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Unalome a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums and more proof of why Smoke Sessions Records continues to be among the elite jazz labels out there today.
Unalome, the latest album from Buster Williams, is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining new offering from the veteran jazz bassist. That is proven throughout the album’s mix of originals and covers. Among the most notable of the originals is the album’s deeply moving midpoint, ‘In The Middle of a Rainbow.’ As noted, the emotional depth of the seven-minute-plus composition is fully engaging. It almost comes across as being a multi-movement opus, what with the soft opening bars, and the gradual change of sounds and moods as the song progresses. Vocalist Jean Baylor’s velvety soft delivery alongside the equally subtle work of Stefon Harris on the vibraphone fully proves the old adage throughout, that less really is more. Meanwhile, Bruce Williams’ saxophone solo works just as well here alongside George Colligan’s work on piano and Lenny White’s even gentler, steady time keeping on the drums with his brushes and hi-hat. The smooth approach that the group takes throughout the song makes the musical presentation here reason enough to hear the song.
In regards to the lyrics, they are minimal, but do so much even in such approach. The lyrical content here paints a picture of someone who is mostly self-assured he Baylor sings of being in an emotionally happy place being “in the middle of a rainbow” and knowing she can go on her way. The thing is that her subject also sings of needing assurance, IE that other person in her life. The mood that Baylor sets through her delivery and that her fellow performers establish along with her makes the whole so understated and in the best way possible. Collectively, this song is such a powerful presentation in itself and just one example of how much the album has to offer. The group’s take on the classic composition, ‘42nd Street’ is yet another example of what makes Unalome shine.
The rendition of ‘42nd Street presented here is unique to say the very least. Where the original song is an upbeat, swinging composition, Baylor and company completely avoid that approach, instead giving the song more of a cool, smooth jazz style and sound. One could almost argue here that in fact there is a sort of R&B influence here, what with the use of the saxophone and keyboards alongside Baylor’s distinct vocal delivery style. It is a rendition that is sure to engage listeners.
Getting back to the record’s features originals, another original worth noting is the album’s opener, ‘Stairways.’ The arrangement featured here is another unique composition that will engage and entertain audiences just as much as any of the album’s other entries. That is due to the light approach taken by the collective to the song. The sort of bluesy leaning that it exhibits along side its equally cool jazz sound makes it such an enjoyable song and equally positive opening to the album. From the controlled saxophone solo to the steady time keeping to the light touches on the vibraphone, the whole comes together here to make the song such an enjoyable work. It really paints a picture of a high-end jazz club, that is just so positive. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Unalome overall, a fully engaging and entertaining work that is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Unalome, the latest album from jazz bassist Buster Williams, is a presentation that his fans and jazz fans alike will find fully enjoyable. That is proven in each of the originals and covers that make up the album’s body. The creativity that Williams and his fellow musicians exhibit through each song is what makes each song so enjoyable. Whether it be the unique update to a classic song, such as ‘42nd Street’ or something more modern like the album’s opener, or even something more unique, such as ‘In The Middle of A Rainbow’ or any of the album’s other songs, the fact is the group’s creativity offers audiences something different and unique in each song. All things considered, Unalome proves itself a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
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