Ben Williams won the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition in 2009, and with it, a recording contract with Concord Jazz. Over the last two years, Williams has been recording with several artists on the label, and has now released State of Art, his debut album as a leader.
This album offers a unique blend of music, with R&B, jazz, hip-hop and even some classical influences.
“I’m trying to interpret the times,” Williams says, “to represent what’s going on today.”
Williams grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the Jackson 5, thanks to his mother, and those early inspirations are heard throughout State of Art. The album includes Michael Jackson’s lesser-known track “Little Susie”, Steve Wonder’s “Part Time Lover”, along with Williams’ own compositions, including “Mr. Dynamite”, a James Brown tribute.
The album’s one standard is Williams’ take on “Moonlight in Vermont”, featuring Williams on electric bass.
“I like to juxtapose something old with something new,” he says. “Where ‘Part-Time Lover’ is the only song on the record that swings the whole way through, even though it happens to be a Stevie Wonder cover, ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ is the reverse: a very old standard interpreted in a very modern way. It’s probably closer to Prince than Frank Sinatra.”
“The Lee Morgan Story” is a tune by emcee John Robinson, discovered by Williams when he appeared with Robinson at Revive Da Live’s show “Hip-Hop 1942.” The tune mixes jazz and hip-hop and features trumpeter Christian Scott.
On State of Art, Williams is joined by saxophonists Marcus Strickland and Jaleel Shaw, guitarist Matthew Stevens, keyboardist Gerald Clayton, drummer Jamire Williams and percussionist Etienne Charles. Williams makes use of a string quartet on a few tracks as well.
Preview and download State of Art:
State of Art Track List:
- The Lee Morgan Story
- Dawn Of A New Day
- Little Susie Intro
- Little Susie
- Part-Time Lover
- Things Don’t Exist
- Mr. Dynamite
- Moonlight In Vermont