, i if t x
and mostly went (wither Vaughan Hawthorne now?).
By the time he did put pen to paper and became the first UK signing on the revived Verve label, Williamson had done his homework on the horn. A Waltz For Grace (1990) was an assured slice of contemporary jazz, played by a largely acoustic band, albeit with hints of things to come in the presence of M-base guru Steve Coleman as producer.
Depending on taste, Coleman’s radical fusion of jazz and funk modes can be interpreted as either a ground-breaking advance into new territory, or as simply another variant on the tired old jazz-funk theme. Williamson has taken some of the lessons he learned from Coleman to heart on his second album, Rhyme Time (That Fuss Was Us!) , although he denies that it was intended to be a kind ofmini-history of black music, as some writers have
Steve Williamson: thatluss was him
‘No, it wasn’t, not at all. What I was doing with that album was trying to make something a bit more progressive than the first album, which was definitely more of an acoustic jazz album. I thought I would try to create this kind of hybrid between jazz and funk music, but really try hard not to fall into either ofthe two categories.
‘It wasn’t meant to be an M-Base kind ofproject, although Steve Coleman’s ideas have inﬂuenced my approach. He’s like a teacher, you know, and what I got from him was basically a different way of using harmony from the one I had been taught at the Guildhall, and a different concept ofusing rhythm. In a way, the whole album is about trying to find more individual ways of using harmony and rhythm.
‘The thing I don’t really like about it now was that we rehearsed and
then recorded the material before we started to play it live, and that was a mistake, because it’s much better now!‘
In addition to that exploration of harmony and rhythm, however, Williamson is also audibly exploring a rather different approach to improvisation, and one which has antecedents in the other Coleman, Ornette. His playing on Rhyme Time is based more on extemporisations along the melody than on the Coltrane-inﬂuenced improvisations through the chords of his earlier, now apprentice , style. Working on a linear rather than a vertical axis is something else which he feels he has grown ‘more together’ since the album was cut.
The result is a curious but highly appealing mixture of complex funk rhythms with flowing instrumental lines which does indeed fall between jazz and funk. ‘I see it as more of an extension of jazz than a departure from it,‘ Williamson says, ‘but I would like to move away from jazz. I would love to do both jazz and more commercial forms of music, rather than have to chose between one or the other.’
The funk element of the music on Rhyme Time seems likely to connect with the large black audience which does not manifest itelf at jazz concerts in this country, although the saxophonist has seen a gradual deepening of interest within that community.
‘There is a bigger element of black people coming to our concerts now, but the jazz audience is still predominantly white. I have no doubt that we are more likely to hit a black audience with this kind of music than straight jazz, which doesn’t have the respect it deserves in the black community.
‘We are more likely to reach that audience with music which has a stronger beat, but I’m not sure about how far to take this argument, because I suspect that if we give them some funk, all it will mean is that they will want more funk, it won’t really take them into jazz.’
But will probably take jazz musicians further and further away from their source as well. The difficulties of playing jazz for a living in this country, and of balancing artistic with financial demands, is not getting any easier, and Williamson confesses to some frustration with these seemingly eternal problems.
It hasn’t stopped him getting on with developing his music, however. More and more of his time is now devoted to composition (the new album features ten of his tunes, two of which have lyrics written by guest singer Cassandra Wilson), and he is currently working on a ﬁlm soundtrack.
His Edinburgh date will feature the saxophonist with former Tommy Smith Group member Jason Rebello on piano, Fayaz Virji (depping for Dennis Rollins) on trombone, bass players Michael Mondesir and Gary Crosby, and drummer Mark Mondesir.
The Steve Williamson Band play the Queen ’5 Hall, Edinburgh on Fri 8.
I The Lost Soul Band haven‘t yet signed to Silvcrtone. home of Brendan Croker. John Lee Hooker and former home ofThe Stone Roses, but don't be too surprised if it happens. Says Paddy O‘Connell. manager: ‘We’ve been talking to Silvertone for three months. We haven‘t signed anything yet. but— what shall I say? - we‘re pretty far down the line. They're the only company we've spoken to that are on the same wavelength as us. Regardless ofthe Silvertone situation. whether we sign with them or not. we'll be going into the studios to make an album in the New Year.‘ The band's new single. their second. is ‘Save It'. which should be in the shops some time in the next week or so.
I Meanwhile. on the other side ofthe country, Glasgow’s Fenn have recorded demos for major label East West. The possibility exists. though, that they might now take the plunge with independent label Dedicated. who have. in the past. brought us Cranes and Chapterhouse.
I More potential deals! As ifyou weren‘t fed up with the subject already! Should everything come together by their gig on Fri 8 (see listings). Whiteout plan to sign a contract with Sacred Heart Records (run by Philip and Martin Hall oftop publicists Hall Or Nothing) live on stage. Could be the greatest thing since The J. Geils Band drafted Lester Bangs in to play a typewriter solo during one oftheir encores. Or. even, the moment last week when The Levellers and The Sandkings joined forces in Glasgow for an encore of ‘Magic Bus‘. Or it might not.
I Prat oi the week seems to be the bassist from The Belltower, who snuck onstage during Chaptcrhouse‘s headlining set at Calton Studios and stood behind Andrew Chappie wearing Mickey Mouse ears and a sign saying ‘Chaptermouse'. Sounds like a wizard wheeze to us, but fans of Chapterhouse's intense seriousness weren‘t at all amused. still less Andrew himself. who was close to panic wondering why everyone was looking at him st) Oddly.
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The List 8— 21 November 199131