Album of the Week – ‘Live at Uptown’ by the Paul Williamson Quartet

‘Live at Uptown’ by the Paul Williamson Quartet is Eastside Radio’s Album of the Week!

To kick off this week’s album of the week review, we give you three great reasons to read on:

  1. Long time listeners of the station will know that jazz music is the canon that the station was founded on.
  2. We also love to celebrate local talent, and for the trifecta of reasons to begin to love this album,
  3. It’s 100% LIVE (ok yes it was recorded in Melbourne but still, it’s fantastic none the less).

‘Live at Uptown’ by the Paul Williamson Quartet serves as the band leaders tenth endeavour to lead an outstanding cohort of musicians though a set list of lesser known standards from the greats of the genre. It breaks the mould for this artist in terms of his career as a celebrated and renowned musician in his own right who predominantly showcases his own original compositions.

It was following his last the album ‘Live’ (released in 2015 featuring Williamson along side Aussie Jazz legends Allan Browne, Marc Hannaford, and Sam Pankhurst) where the artist first recorded, experimented and launched this album of ‘not quite standards’. Released via the dedicated Australian Jazz loving label, Jazzhead Recordings, ‘Live at Uptown’ features Williamson on trumpet as well as the album’s arranger, alongside long time friends Danny Fischer on Drums, Marty Holoubek on Double Bass and pianist Joe O’Connor.

The Charlie Parker original ‘Confirmation’ is just the beginning of the list of artists this album pays tribute to. The fact that Williamson has traded in Parker’s signature saxophone with his own trumpet is also just the beginning of the compositional decisions made to re-invigorate these classics for a contemporary audience. In an interview discussing his path to making the record, Williamson discussed the compositional pull he felt toward needing to remember the artists that led the way to what we now call Jazz. Specifically he talked about their song’s capabilities to encourage creative expression as a “right of passage to use those as vehicles for expression”.

In ‘You Stepped Out of A Dream’, we saw this translated in many ways beginning its reserved introduction by pianist Joe O’Connor, lacking any bravado added to the track by artists like Nat King Cole who made the song famous. It also helps in warning up the artists for this expensive journey through the intricacies of Gus Kahn’s writing matched with Williamson’s arrangement. The trumpeter leads both the melody line and solo features with an expressive, meandering and powerful improvisation that utilises the crescendo technique to effortlessly maintain the listeners interest from reserved and sensitive introduction, to squealing and powerful release. The final solo is taken by pianist Joe O’Connor and features more prolonged phrasing and harmonic work developing the textural quality of the track, far beyond the capability of a trumpet, yet once again adding further interest trough the catalyst of a seasoned player.

As well as having a successful recording and performance career, Williamson is a faculty member and the Jazz and Honours Coordinator at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University, Melbourne. Another great teacher from the era is that of Thelonious Monk, who composed ‘I Mean You’. The opening track of this release is lively, and features special guest artists the audience, who are clearly audible in their excitement about the performance.

The final element that stands out in this release is its appreciation and approach to the art of a group live performance. Williamson, from an early age, engaged in group work with his high school band mates after discovering the environment’s conducive power towards creativity, experimentation and fostering an extensive dialogue between not only the players but the audience itself. Further experience in the Australian music scene taught the artist about the community’s conscious encouragement of musicians breaking the so called ‘rules’ of the genres. He’s even gone so far as suggesting in an interview that this might be down to the geographical distance Australia has to jazz’s homelands in Africa and America. Regardless of truth, these elements culminate in the underlying strength of this work.

‘I Mean You’ is no exception to this rule as Williamson again substitutes his trumpet for the leading saxophone line. The track serves as a lively introduction to the body of work, featuring solos again from Williamson and O’Connor. This time however their performance transitions into a call and response section to shine a spotlight not only on the talents of Fischer’s expressive drumming sensibilities, but also showcase the unique dialogue the group has between one another that ultimately provides the strongest through line for the entire album. This is of course a bond that could only occur between artists who has worked and enjoyed each others company for as long as they’ve all been playing together.

Artist Listing:

Paul Williamson – Trumpet

Danny Fischer – Drums

Marty Holoubek – Double Bass

Joe O’Connor – Piano

Track Listing:

1.I Mean You

2.If I Should Lose You

3.You Stepped Out of A Dream

4.Iris

5.Little Melonae

6.Ask Me Now

7.Confirmation

For an extended listen to the album, tune in on Thursday from 1.30PM – 2PM for ‘Album of the Week’ with guest host Melanie Christodoulou. Don’t forget to also listen out for your opportunity to win a copy of ‘Live at Uptown’ all week. You must be a supporter to win so make sure to sign up here. Don’t forget you can also stream the station here.

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