Review by Kevin R. Convey
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Just when you thought nobody
made the kind of jazz album that depends more on class, beauty, chops
and communication than on concepts and star value, along comes bassist
Buster Williams' "Griot Liberte." Thank God. It's enough to
restore your faith in the art form. Raising high the banner
of sleek postmodern jazz he helped hoist with the late, lamented Sphere,
Williams drives this quartet with his deep-mahogany sound and deliberate
yet conversational flow. But Williams is generous to his bandmates - and
well he should be with such players as drummer Lenny White, vibraphonist
Stefon Harris and pianist George Colligan. Each carries more than his
share of the load, turning in both sparkling solo passages and sleek ensemble
parts. Bathing the music, rather than the players, in the spotlight, "Griot
Liberte" is a class act.
June 30, 2004 by Brian Moura (HFR)
Griot Liberte is the latest album from jazz
bass player Buster Williams. The title of the new album means "storyteller
liberator" and Williams says the album demonstrates how he is a storyteller
through his music. It features 6 original compositions
by Williams along with two well known standards. Over the years, Williams
has played with a seemingly endless list of jazz stars including Nancy
Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Dakota Staton, Betty Carter, Miles Davis, the Jazz
Crusaders, Herbie Mann, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Kenny
Barron and many more.
Contributed by Andrea
It would be hard to imagine
“Something More” than what Buster Williams’ all-star
quartet by that name presented at the Dakota over the past three nights.
Imagine the Modern Jazz Quartet—also an all-star ensemble with the
same instrumentation—with a stretched out post bop passion, and
that will only begin to convey the level of artistry and excitement of
William’s crew. While we often see a “master”
bandleader in the company of young lions (as in the recent Twin Cities’
visits of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Roy Haynes), we seldom get the
chance to see one master in collaboration with other musicians of this
caliber. Each member of Something More has a well-established reputation
as among the very best—versatile drummer Lenny White (“Bitches
Brew” and Return to Forever), vibraphone monster Steve Nelson (Dave
Holland Big Band and Quintet), and unbridled pianist Patrice Rushen, better
known for her work in R & B, film scores, and musical extravaganza
production that straight-ahead jazz....
Detroit Free Press
BY MARK STRYKER
PRESS MUSIC WRITER JAZZ
|April 9, 2004
There's nothing chic about
bands led by the great veteran bassist Buster Williams -- just post-bop
of exceptional depth and maturity, anchored by the leader's burnished
mahogany tone, magical pulse and quick reflexes. The quartet
features versatile pianist George Colligan, savvy vibist Steve Nelson
and powerhouse drummer Lenny White, who, despite his fusion past, remains
an A-list straight-ahead drummer with a taste for both fiery interaction
and judicious dynamics.
Buster Williams & Something More featuring Patrice Rushen,
Steve Nelson, and Lenny White performed at the Dakota, but perhaps the
gigs should have been billed under the title Buster Williams & Something
Special, considering the set they played on April 21...
Ohio Free Timeshttp://www.freetimes.com
Wednesday, April 7
— C. Andrew Hovan
It's always a blast when
you get a chance to see a real working band take the music through its
paces. Taking nothing away from the great musicians in town who often
back up the national headliners coming through, there's just something
to be said for the chemistry that develops among those that play together
A prime case in point would be the hook-up between the Buster Williams
Quartet's pianist George Colligan and legendary drummer Lenny White who
fed each other phrases back and forth with the skill and precision of
trapeze artists. Of course, the two often work together, and Colligan's
skills as an amateur drummer lend themselves well to his own rhythmic
conception. As for Steve Nelson, who has been working quite regularly
with Dave Holland's quintet, this was a rare opportunity to hear the vibist
to stretch out at length, with Buster Williams' bass acting as the glue
that held it all together.
Both sets included a mix of standards and Williams'
own originals, and the arrangements integrated spots for the bassist to
voice the melodies. With his mini keyboard and laptop computer, Colligan
tastefully added lush synthesized chords to ballads like “Christina”
and then rocked out with some funky solos utilizing both his B3 and Fender
Rhodes patches. White often spoke his piece over repeated vamps,
building the intensity with lightening-fast tom fills and cymbal splashes. Williams
took the opportunity to solo at length during both sets, utilizing the
more conventional “Summertime” first go around, and then offering
a virtuoso performance of Rodrigo's classical opus, “Concierto de
Things really heated up over the course of the evening's
second set, which kicked off with Williams' iconic blues line, “Toku-Do.” Nelson
was a man in motion, working the entire range of the instrument while
throwing in some obscure quotes along the way, such as a brief snippet
from Hank Mobley's “Break Through.” With a standing ovation
and a roaring crowd that insisted on more, Williams acquiesced and offered
an encore, a brisk run through of “Firewater” which allowed
White to pull out all the stops.
— C. Andrew Hovan
By Jay Harvey
June 3, 2003
It was somewhere in Buster Williams' second solo in the
standard "All of You" that the key to his success as a much-in-demand
bassist became clear.
That big, enveloping tone and the connectedness of his phrasing surely
are what made him a favorite of singers like Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter
and Nancy Wilson when he first developed a reputation in his early 20s.
Such security behind them always makes singers happy, although
the 61-year-old Camden, N.J., native also played with an honor roll of
jazz instrumentalists before making a practice of heading his own small
groups in the past decade.
The first set at the Jazz Kitchen presented Williams as
a first among equals -- prominent, and in every respect a leader of the
ensemble, but not given to inordinate display. Finding their own space
on the bandstand were his three formidable colleagues -- pianist George
Colligan, alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin and drummer Lenny White.
"All of You" illustrated the interdependence of
the foursome, particularly in the smooth transition between Williams'
first solo and a showcase for the astute Colligan. As in a deft turn of
a musical kaleidoscope, Colligan came into the foreground as Williams
segued into an accompanying role.
The band had some fiery originals to bring out for its Indianapolis
debut, including a piece that seemed to be a kind of samba-boogie that
emphasized new colors in Colligan's playing as he concentrated on the
electric keyboard mounted atop the acoustic piano he used for most of
The performance negotiated several tempo changes expertly,
with particularly flexible playing from White, a master of hard-bop and
jazz-rock fusion idioms.
The quartet scaled back to a duo for Williams and Colligan in "Little
Girl Blue," as each player complemented the other with an unerring
feeling for melody. Williams has such a rich palette of sound that the
effect was almost that of a two-piano team mulling things over compatibly.
Benjamin's hearty tone worked best in short outbursts when
the tempo was fast, but he also knew how to make a tune -- or his improvisations
on it -- hang together when the tempo slowed, as exemplified in "All
And it was the saxophonist's playing that set the tone in
an unusually funky arrangement of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was,"
which honored the original even in going as far afield as incorporating
a long drum solo with the rest of the band inserting powerful paired chords
every few bars.
Throughout the first set, Williams let his sterling technique
remain a servant of his ideas, so that no flurry of notes seemed to shout,
"Look what I can do."
That big tone with a burred edge to it always had a story
to tell, and it spoke of a musician who works hard so that listeners can
enjoy the plushness and energy of any group Williams plays with.
From the Chicago Tribune
Buster Williams, pals blend youth, maturity
Two generations of jazz musicians convened in the quartet
that opened Tuesday night at the Jazz Showcase, and the combination of youthful
energy and mature understatement proved tremendously effective in every
piece it played.
By Howard Reich
Tribune Arts Critic
May 28 2003
Both bassist Buster Williams, who's headlining, and drummer Lenny White
are veterans of several decades and countless bands, their hand-in-glove
rhythm work as persuasive as anything in small-ensemble jazz today.
Add to their imperturbable backbeats the ferocious energy of pianist George
Colligan and the searing melodicism of alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin and
you have the very model of urgent, hard-driving jazz improvisation in a
During Tuesday night's first set, some of the most daring playing came from
Colligan and Benjamin, who in some ways represent flip sides of the same
For if Colligan palpably upped the intensity level of the band with his
muscular virtuosity and complex, two-fisted chords, Benjamin contributed
to the surge of sound with soaring lyric phrases built on a comparatively
few, well-chosen pitches.
The combination of Benjamin's ecstatic alto lines and Colligan's thunderous,
harmonically free-ranging piano accompaniment in many ways defined this
quartet, if only because Benjamin and Colligan played with remarkable commitment
Williams and White, meanwhile, maintained rhythmic and harmonic tension
while taking pains not to upstage their younger colleagues.
Yet when it came time for Williams' solo, the man reminded listeners why
he holds an esteemed position among the world's most accomplished jazz bassists.
The infallibility of his pitch, the sureness of his time, the alacrity of
his technique and the high melodicism of even his staccato passages must
be the envy of bass players everywhere.
White, a drummer for all occasions, crisply punctuated the proceedings,
providing a neatly placed brush stroke here or an unexpected eruption there.
His succinct contributions added to the ensemble texture without distorting
In all, a nearly seamless quartet performance.
The Buster Williams Quartet plays through Sunday at the Jazz Showcase,
59 W. Grand Ave.; $20; 312-670-2473.
Jazz note: Northwestern University will give Chicago tenor saxophone
legend Von Freeman an honorary doctorate of fine arts at 6 p.m. June 20,
at the school's Ryan Field.
To celebrate the occasion, Freeman will perform during the NU Jazz Festival,
7:30 p.m. Saturday in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.
Admission is free; phone 847-491-5441.
Review: Glasgow Herald Monday, August 26, 2002
Buster Williams Quartet What? Music Where?
Bridge Jazz Bar Rating: * * * * *
Even allowing for the kind of venue transformation that
the Fringe specialises in, this is surreal. In the back of a South Bridge
bar that, mere weeks ago, was a dying-on-its-feet Irish theme pub is a
group that would grace any jazz event anywhere.
Buster Williams is a double-bass god, with Herbie Hancock
and Chick Corea among his previous associates. His is a beautiful, personal
sound and he has a technique that makes his physically demanding instrument
seem as forbidding as a ukulele. He even sounds great from the loos downstairs,
and his fellow musicians - drummer Lenny White, pianist George Colligan,
and vibist Steve Nelson - are just the bees' knees.
The level of creativity is supernatural. The music is considered,
stately, and, with White's controlled, ultramusical energy (his soloing
caused serial jaw dropping), capable of exploding into rumble-tumble excitement.
Jazz lovers will delight in their gorgeously understated and quietly groovy
I Didn't Know What Time It Was. Bass players will swoon at Williams's
solo version of Concierto de Aranjuez. Non-believers may even be converted.
They're here until Sunday. Go and rejoice.
Buster Williams: Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, England.
Publication: Guardian Date: Oct 29, 2001 Author:
When jazz was very young (about 90 years ago), and
primarily a collective art, most of its practitioners would have thought
taking a solo was just plain showing off. American bassist Buster Williams'
trio, which has been on a short UK tour, is a triumvirate of the kind
of solo stars who emerged in the incarnations of jazz that followed. Williams
is one of the great acoustic bassists, and pianist Geri Allen and drummer
Lenny White have awesome track records. Yet the group turns out to be
as eagerly conversational as the earliest of jazz bands.
No single element holds the key, but the relationship
between Geri Allen and Lenny White plays a big part. Performing a good
deal of the music from Williams's new CD, Houdini, it quickly emerged
that the Geri Allen who came to the UK as a leader in the summer - a complex,
refined player - had turned into an ecstatic, chord-pumping hedonist.
Allen's looseness and enthusiasm gave the show much of its insistent urgency,
especially in dialogue with Lenny White's drumming - a dense and full-on
style in which every beat, however brief, is given a startling vividness.
All this was cajoled and umpired by Williams's elegant basslines.
Houdini itself was an agile postbop theme opened by
Williams high on the finger board, and with his characteristic mix of
a springy. dancing tone, sure-footed speed and dark, humming low notes.
He is sometimes reminiscent of the MJQ's Percy Heath in his prime, but
also has Dave Holland's mixture of emphatic and impulsive phrasing. The
theme quickly turned into a restless collective improvisation of chiming
piano riffs against Lenny White's clamorous drumming, ascending church-bell
keyboard chords resolving in fragile trills swiftly echoed by the bass
with bursts of jazz-groove walking.
Buster Williams's remarkable fast pizzicato technique
and Allen's rich arpeggios illuminated the ballads in the repertoire.
But having discovered such an intuitive creativity through stressing the
structure to its breaking-point, the high-energy episodes of the show
were the most striking, with Williams's flying runs, Allen's prodding,
baiting chordwork and White's hissing cymbal responses and snare-pattern
showers. Another world-class acoustic piano.
Review: The review on Houdini on www.amazon.co.uk Three masters
do their magic, 3 November, 2001
Reviewer: A music fan from Gibraltar
Putting great musicians together, by great I mean in total
command of their instruments and past the need to display technique,does
not always work. Its often interesting, but not always natural.
Having spent the last 25 years crawling from jazz club to
jazz club one also becomes aware that some of the big names live with
young blood to keep their music alive. That's fine. But every now and
then the names, the different backgrounds of musicians all slip into the
background and their music stands ahead of them. So it is with this trio
who recently performed in the Pizza Express, Dean Street London, which,
since Ronnie died, has become the jazz soul of that great city.
Biased as I am towards the role of the acoustic bass and
that line of creativity that flows from Blanton through Mingus, I was
spellbound by Williams sensitivity. Like a maestro of a flamenco guitar
there was no technique here that could be called show rather than music.
Gerri Allen's intimacy with Willams and Lenny White's clean and clear
pulse make this a session that even truculent purists should not miss.
To a newcomer to the trio, Houdini will send you searching
for past works and wondering if the magic can be cast again in a future
The CD sits on my shelf between Cedar Walton and Ahmad Jamal
and the recent Chano Dominguez 'Imam'. All music where you hear the notes
without effort. Music which tells you that, in a world increasingly dominated
by cash and image, is not ephemeral, there is still a jazz that it is
serious, beautiful and moving. When you listen to this one you won't need
Houdini's chains to immobilise you.