"Like, when you go on the bandstand and start to play, you know what I mean, you go in a trance. I mean, you’re out of it. I mean, you’re only involved in what the other musicians are doing. Well, that’s the relief of playing music, because when you can play music, and if you really get involved in it, and you love it and you enjoy it, and you enjoy and respect the people you’re playing with, there’s nothing like that in the world. There’s nothing like that...like a guy that goes in a trance. He’s right there, you can look in his eyes, but his brain is only in the music and only what the other musicians are doing and what he is doing. That requires a great deal of concentration. You have to be sympathetic. You have to be understanding. You have to be friendly, mean, nasty, cold-blooded and everything at the same time,you know — without being hateful, though."-Arthur Taylor (WKCR interview with Ted Panken)
Jeff Williams Quartet at Pizza Express (25 November 2018) London Jazz Festival
Although billed as a trio, Jeff Williams actually fielded a quartet at the Pizza Express, with a front line of Josh Arcoleo and John O'Gallagher on tenor and alto saxophone respectively, fuelled by a tremendous rhythm section in which Jeff's fine drumming is allied to the bass playing of one of the UK's finest, Sam Lasserson. The group provided 90 minutes of excellent original music, most of it, I believe, composed by Jeff Williams, with plenty of room for all concerned to display the full range of their skills; a marvellous way to spend a Sunday afternoon. (Graham Roberts)
And: "The drummer, Jeff Williams, was outstanding - playing with avidity and holding the audience’s interest consistently. When one looks at the likes of who Jeff Williams has played with (Stan Getz, Bill McHenry - listen to this INTERVIEW) perhaps it is no surprise that he has such great capacity for communication, both with his fellow players and the audience. In the end, technical skill alone can never be the defining factor of success for live performance. This is the mystery of live music – what is it that gives atmosphere and colour? Perhaps the presence and the experience of a musician such as Jeff Williams is the answer." (Vortex, 9 February 2018. London Jazz News Review by Brianna McClean)
"Jeff Williams has been on a late-career roll - drawing fresh energy and ideas from a pool of younger US and British musicians, and balancing a jazz sensibility honed from the 1960s with a relaxation about letting contemporary improvisers roam. This live recording from London's Vortex catches a superb Williams band in flight on a mix of new and older originals. Jeff Williams' classic-jazz roots go deep, but there's nothing backward-looking about this vividly powerful set."
-John Fordham****Jazzwise magazine
"Jeff Williams explores evolving improvised forms and shifting emotional terrain... The album reprises six of Williams’ original tunes from three previous albums, performed this time with additional personnel and altered arrangements—to intriguing effect." -DownBeat Magazine September 2018
“Sounding as real as real gets, Lifelike’s forward thinking drummer/composer Jeff Williams’ heady sextet sure sound like they’re all sitting in on a late night, cramped back room cutting session, with each player challenging, coaxing the other to new heights and horizons.” -All about Jazz (review #2) read the review:
"Williams's tautly-constructed, inventive tunes, replete with killer hooks, are pivotal to this excellent album, as are the protagonists who execute it with consummate expertise."**** -All About Jazz (review #1)
"Left leaning UK jazz straight from the listening room, this bunch plays it pro and plays it for progressive taste. No pandering to the pots and pans crowd, you can just picture the hipsters nodding their heads approvingly to the beat."
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“One of the hippest avant-garde jazz records of 2018; a coherent whole of tension-release, vitality, and drive.” -Jazz Trail
"The sextet rambles, rumbles, and rocks through seven Williams originals, several from earlier albums. There is plenty of fire in the performances, from the powerful drive of "The Interloper" to the relentless tension of "Dream Visitor" to the hard-edged "Double Life." Yet, it's hard not to be seduced by the subtle tempo changes and searching quality of "Under The Radar".
All told, "Lifelike" is full of life, an hour of progressive music not beholding to any genre other than than six musicians fully involved in playing in the moment."
"Williams has done brilliantly to bring his deep-rooted 1960s jazz heritage forwards through working with players of subsequent generations. He thereby combines a strong sense of the continuing tradition with an imperative to look forwards. It is a compelling combination."
(for complete review click above link) "Outlier has a classy, lived-in feel that never glosses over this band's tough, restless spirit in performance." -Jazzwise ****-Jazz Journal "Powerful, energetic and unsettling jazz with a lot of warmth and soul at its core." -Jazz Podium "This is a very good album which benefits from Williams' imaginative compositions and the ensemble's excellent musicianship. It's also a grower, so play frequently for a lasting effect." -All About Jazz "The pieces are robustly appealing and the improv – from a crack British band -- is even better. The set pulses with arresting original themes...Outlier references the tradition, but with dynamism, not deference." -The Guardian "Williams has assembled a talented band of musicians. It is to his credit that he has embraced their abilities making for an excellent recording." -Bebop Spoken Here
London Jazz News Jeff Williams. Outlier (Whirlwind Recordings WR4684. CD review by Jon Turney)
"Drummer Jeff Williams has contributed to many fine recordings over four decades, and the first two sessions he led for London’s Whirlwind Recordings were a particular pleasure. Those featured his US band, a freewheeling pianoless quartet he has kept up as a now-UK resident player who maintains a presence in New York. This third release allows us to savour the British band Williams has worked with in the last few years. It’s a different feel from the quartet, who have a wonderfully loose, open approach, especially on 2013’s live set, The Listener. The presence of Phil Robson on guitar and recent recruit Kit Downes on piano gives most of these pieces, from the opener Outlier on, a denser soundscape. These players are far too subtle to crowd each other, though, and the result is recognisably a different facet of the same artist’s work. Here he brings together elements of music he’s experienced through an impressive career to make new compositions that inspire his cohorts.
So we have pieces inspired directly or indirectly by Joe Henderson (Outlier), and a long tribute to Hermeto Pascoal (Hermeto). There is a distinctly Monkish feel to the guitarless The Interloper, while the leader’s Fender Rhodes adds a touch of Bitches Brew to Dream Visitor, also as it builds reminiscent of the more electric portions of Dave Liebman’s classic Sweet Hands, which featured a young Williams in 1975.
Robson and Downes are on top form. Bassist Sam Lasserson is less prominent than John Herbert in the “New York” quartet, but works seamlessly with Williams’ effortlessly varied drumming. The revelation, though, is tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo. His tone seems a little darker than you hear on his own debut album a few years ago, or on a more recent session with John Law. He also deploys at more impassioned moments a grainier, more strongly vocalised timbre, than before. None of this impedes his flow: this is a young player coming into his own.
His sound is a key element in the combination of youth and experience in the band. That exchange between the generations complements the Anglo-US personnel – a distinction harder to draw now with Phil Robson’s recent move to New York, and William’s long-time American sax player John O’Gallagher relocating over here. At this point in jazz’s evolution, accidents of birth matter little. What’s important is that players make strong music together, and this fine group certainly do."
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 Mike Gibbs Big Band, Nikki Iles, Kit Downes, Olie Brice, Alex Bonney, Barry Green, Tony Malaby 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 2013 and appeared at the London Jazz Festival for four consecutive years. Jeff's current lineup in the UK includes John O'Gallagher-alto saxophone, Josh Arcoleo-tenor saxophone, Kit Downes-piano and Sam Lasserson-bass. The group was on tour in 2016-17 in support of the album Outlier while Jeff also performed in trio with Leo Genovese and Esperanza Spalding, in groups led by Mike Fletcher, Alex Bonney, Alex Merritt, Ethan Iverson, Hans Koller and Martin Speake, in addition to touring the UK extensively with the Olie Brice Quintet. He has also been involved in live performance and recording projects led by bassist Demian Cabaud in Portugal and Spain. Jeff's new album Lifelikewas released on 20 April 2018 on Whirlwind Recordings Ltd. The band is currently touring the UK in conjunction with the CD's release.
(See performance schedule at the bottom of this page for more information.)
"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."
"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