“Yeah, last night I got my master’s degree from Juilliard,” bassist Ben Williams admitted somewhat sheepishly toward the tail end of his concert at SPAC’s Spa Little Theater on Saturday night. “So now I’m the master of… something.”
Williams is only 25 years old, but he’s learned his Juilliard lessons well. And not only is he a smart and thoughtful musician, but he also has the intuitive inventiveness of a veteran jazzman.
Leading a crack band of more seasoned musicians – Aaron Goldberg (Fender Rhodes/grand piano), Matthew Stevens (electric guitar), Otis Brown III (drums) and Marcus Strickland (soprano and tenor saxes) – Williams proved to be a bandleader of formidable skills, neatly balancing jazz catalog numbers (Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”) with impressively re-arranged contemporary soul-pop selections (Michael Jackson’s “Little Susie”).
“After the show, we’ll be selling CDs out in the lobby,” Williams plugged. “Well, actually I don’t have any CDs yet, but I’ll be recording my first one for Concord Records next month. In the meantime, buy these guys’ CDs. They’re good.”
Williams has recorded with the likes of Stefon Harris, Marcus Strickland and and Jackie Terrasson, but if his performance on Saturday night was any indication, he could take it to a whole other level with his debut recording as a bandleader.
And if you can’t wait that long, Williams will be back at SPAC on Sunday, June 27, playing on the main stage for the Freihofer Jazz Festival as a member of Stefon Harris’ band, Blackout.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
See more of Andrzej’s photos of the show at AlbanyJazz.com
Read my review in The Times Union
BEN WILLIAMS & SOUND EFFECT SET LIST
SPAC’s Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Springs, 5/22/10
Moon Train (Woody Shaw)
The Dawn of a New Day
Part-Time Lover (Stevie Wonder)
Christina (Buster Williams)
In Your Own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck)
Little Susie (Michael Jackson)