The first time that I heard Ben Williams, it was about 3am in the morning, and on a special Youtube channel the International Jazz Festival being held in Indonesia was on. Pat Metheny was playing [who I love], and there was this amazing double-bassist. I was super sleepy, just internet surfing. Can’t tell you how I found him, or why. All I know was that between the two, I was wide awake. And when Ben began to play, the ears of this ultra Basshead were zero’d in!
Ben has accomplished a lot in his 27yrs. of living. In 2002, he was a recipient of the Duke Ellington Society Annual Scholarship Award; took First Place in the 2005 International Society of Bassists (ISB) in the Jazz category as well as First Place in The 2009 Thelonious Monk International Competition for Double-Bass; Two-time winner of the Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship Competition at the East Coast Jazz Festival; and a Two-time winner of the DC Public School Piano Competition [yes, he plays piano too!] . He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Mulgrew Miller, Cyrus Chestnut, Ron Blake, Stefon Harris, Karreim Riggins, Hamiett Bluiette, James Williams, Bobby Watson, Winard Harper, Buster Williams, John Hicks, Anthony Wonsey, Me’Shelle N’degeocello, Gene Lake, Wycliffe Gordon, and Delfeayo Marsalis and more, not to mention performing with opening acts for artists such as John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and Eric Roberson. I happily included part of his pedigree, because it is a beautiful thing to see this type of history on a young artist while we are drowning in the land of “click and drag” [software music].
Held at the East Cleveland Public Library, a Free event, Ben Williams and Sound Effect did just that. The effect of their music was totally absorbed by all that listened as we ooh’d, ahh’d, clapped enthusiastically at the individual solos, and treated our ears and hearts to the beauty of the double-bass.
There is something to be said about this instrument. In the Soul/R&B genre, it is the pocket or ‘money’ instrument as some call it. This instrument sets the tone for the majority of music from early Motown [James Jamerson], is signature on Luther Vandross music [Marcus Miller for one], and is the absolute funk for Parliament [Lige Curry] – as well as the fact that these are electric – so we are familiar with the boom, especially with it being an absolute in Hip-Hop and rap since it propels cars down the street, lol. In the Classical, it is heard caressed with a bow and has more of an ethereal sound. But Jazz is a different order of addressing the bass sound. It’s impact extends well beyond the thump. When played correctly, it interprets the feeling of the song without words. In comparison, it is the butter on the biscuit; the purr under the hood of a new car; the sweet spot of a massage. Rich, fulfilling, soothing like a medicine. Whether it is straight-ahead with a 6/8 time signature or the sweetest of lullabies, this instruments’ potential is vastly overlooked at times in the midst of others on a stage; heard as only the backdrop.
Sunday evening, Ben Williams and his Double-Bass were front and center. The combination of his fingers flying over the strings, the sound of the instrument filling the room, and the passion on his face as they performed one of his original works from his State Of The Art CD entitled “Home” was a Jazz delicacy.
Not yet 30, this young lion has already emoted a roar that more than identifies him as one. It also marks his territory as a Tribe leader of musicians who are passionately picking up the torch of yesterday, adding a super charged fuel, and turning up the flame for all to see that the true artistry of Jazz lives on.
This was the 5th concert in a series of more than a dozen that are being presented by Tri-C, who have brought us quality entertainment for over 3 decades. YOU HAVE NOT MISSED IT! I have been asked. There are still 6 days of concerts left! Be sure to visit http://www.tricpresents.com and select a concert. Treat yourself. You will NOT be disappointed.
See you there!
In Rhythm and Blue
2012 Tri-C Jazzfest