Saturday, October 15, 2016

Arthur Williams - Forgiveness Suite (No Business, 2016)

Little seems to be known about the leader of this recording, trumpeter Arthur Williams. He played with a wide range of musicians in New York City in the 1970’s including Steve Reid, Ahmed Abdullah and in the great band Muntu with Jemeel Moondoc. On this rare recording, a limited edition of 400 records, he is joined by Toshinori Kondo on trumpet, Peter Kuhn on bass clarinet, William Parker on bass and Denis Charles on drums. The music was composed by Arthur Williams and was recorded on December 19, 1979 at WKCR in New York City. The first part of the “Forgiveness Suite” features bubbling horns and reed, with percussion forming the frame which surrounded it. The music is subtle and thoughtful, with low key bass providing support and a brief solo. The players embrace the music, developing a strong thematic structure. There is a move to bowed bass adding solemnity, while trumpet and saxophone pushing across it along with tumbling percussion creating an appealing message. They press ahead and then lay back, developing a fine dynamic feel and rhythm. Waves of trumpet and clarinet surge forth, followed by open sections for bass and percussion. Parker is the unsung hero of the group and plays brilliantly throughout both bowed and plucked. The horns improvise very well, playing in a controlled and at times melodic fashion, this is far from a free jazz blowout, it’s a meeting of equals playing and improvising over interesting themes. Williams develops a potent solo over bowed bass, using a strong, muscular tone to lay the groundwork for his fellow musicians to join him in a collective improvisation. Kuhn takes a raw toned and deep solo on bass clarinet, with sawing bowed bass along for the ride. They expand a powerful improvisation that leads to the end of the first section. Part two of “Forgiveness Suite” is reverent and almost prayer like with dignified horns and respectful bass and drums. The whole group rises as one, getting louder and exclaiming their message with great strength. Williams’s trumpet playing is raw and coursicating, and he delves into a duet with William Parker. He sounds great, growling and playing with guttural heat, with Parker supporting every step. The whole band comes in for a theme statement punctuated by Charles’ excellent percussion. Kuhn’s bass clarinet bursts forth and Parker takes a patient and thoughtful solo. This is excellent music, with a memorable theme and some fantastic improvisation both in the group and individual format. There is an epic collective improvisation that is thrilling to hear as the band really goes for broke, moving into a stoic form which takes the music into a quiet percussion feature, before regrouping for a strong finale. The album clocks in at barely a half an hour, which leaves the listener wanting more. Hopefully there is another trove of music out there to shed further light on this talented and enigmatic musician. Forgiveness Suite - No Business Records.

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