Kate Williams (piano), Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Alex Garnett (tenor saxophone), Steve Fishwick (trumpet), Tom White (trombone), Oli Hayhurst (double bass) & Tristan Maillot (drums)
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 17 May, 2014
Venue: Hall Two, Kings Place, London
Numerous jazz artists over the decades have worked in various ensemble formations, but few have moved between them with the continuity and dexterity of pianist Kate Williams. The last decade has seen albums with her fronting a quartet (Looking Out), trio (Scenes and Dreams), quintet (The Embrace) and septet (Made Up) – and it was with this latter formation that she arrived at Kings Place with a selection of pieces that reflected her wide-ranging back catalogue as well as anticipating the album her septet is recording this July.
After the bracing verse-and-refrain sequences of ‘Climbing Up Falling Down’ had given each of the musicians a spot in the limelight, the overtly chamber dialogue of ‘Duped’ pursued a more understated trajectory. ‘One’s Own Room’ was a thoughtful and (in view of his death last May 29th) timely tribute to American pianist Mulgrew Miller, then ‘Follow That Lemming’ upped the ante with its incisive ensemble interplay over a running – while not ultimately cliff-edge – accompaniment. A limpid cover of ‘One Side of You’ by Eliane Elias then preceded Williams’s tribute to the Brazilian jazz pianist with the slow-burning eloquence of ‘For Eliane’. After the interval, the second set was launched with ‘Atlas and Vulcana’ – the family ‘strong woman’ act inspiring a suitably propulsive and cumulative response from the septet, in contrast with the shimmering evocation of ‘Moon Set’. A similar duality came with the energetic ‘All Kinds of Fun’ as followed by the moodily evocative quintet number ‘The Far Side’, before the evening drew to a close in the stealthy workout of ‘Strange But’ True with its exhilarating final stages.
Throughout, Williams’s discreet though authoritative and always inventive pianism provided a ready incentive to the formidable line-up arrayed alongside her. Gareth Lockrane impressed with his elegant and resourceful flute playing (not least on the often taciturn alto instrument), while Alex Garnett’s tenor saxophone work reminded just why his has been a constant and versatile presence on the UK jazz scene these past two decades. Steve Fishwick provided bracing yet elegant trumpet playing, with trombonist Tom White not to be outdone in his robustly incisive contribution. As to the rhythm section, Oli Hayhurst reminded of the subtlety possible in ensemble jazz with upright bass, while Tristan Maillot’s fluid drumming propelled the music on its dynamic and impulsive course.
A varied and absorbing evening that makes one anticipate the septet’s forthcoming album the more keenly. Williams has quartet dates in Norwich on May 20th, Harlow on 30th and Brighton on June 27th, with the present septet back in action at Nottingham on May 22nd.