Four Plus Three Live Reviews:
"Kate invited the young musicians of the Guastalla String Quartet to join her for a recording and a tour with her regular bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ingamells. The short UK tour to celebrate the resulting CD, Four Plus Three (KW Jazz) had its opening date at the Birmingham festival, and the album will be officially launched at the 606 Club in London on 8 June.The recording is also to be released later on vinyl. I may be first in the queue for that vinyl release, for Saturday’s performance was truly compelling.
In the intimate setting of the Red Lion, the glorious richness of the strings enveloped the listener, blending superbly with the warmth of Kate’s Bill Evans-inspired piano and the subtle drive of Hayhurst and Ingamells. It was one of those rare concerts you wished would not end.
The influence of Bill Evans ran like a thread through the performance, including his compositions B minor Waltz and Walking Up, but Kate’s own creations Eleven Tonal, with its unusual harmonic twists, and Storm Before Calm, featuring stabbing staccato strings and swirling piano arpeggios, were enormously impressive. There was a beautiful cello solo from Sergio Serra on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Portrait In Black And White, and perfect pizzicato melody work from violinists John Garner and Marie Schreer plus viola player Miguel Angel Rodriguez Olivera on Walking Up, and expressive solo bass from Hayhurst on B minor Waltz. Glorious music."
John Watson, The Jazz Breakfast, 22nd May 2016
"Kate Williams has opened a very promising creative door with Four plus Three, and she knows it: “as a composer, this has been the dream line-up, and I keep on thinking of more stuff I want to do.”
The title refers to the combination of two classic, balanced and normally self-sufficient formations: the “Four” is a string quartet; the “Three” is a jazz piano trio. And the compositional task that the pianist/composer has set herself is to combine them either fully, to create a distinct “string quartet-plus-jazz trio” sound world, or to test the kaleidoscope of possible blends and surprises that can emerge from adding parts of the trio to either all or part of the quartet.
This task of creative combination is far from a simple. The first hurdle the performers have to negociate, and which a bandleader has to either facilitate or impose, is to ensure that all the different components can be heard. This group had got over that one brilliantly and consistently. Whereas the jazz trio backing loud solo instruments needs to out-think and to outpunch him or her, the task with unamplified strings is to work with their sound and frame it, and that implies consistent delicacy, restraint, listening, respect - the qualities which groups led by Kate Williams tend to have.
That balance and the restraint start with the piano playing. Williams is a schooled and historically aware jazz pianist.There were constant reminders in her touch, of the school of jazz pianists who bring, or brought, a sense of balance with their every utterance. Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Barron in particular come to mind, and indeed the title of the new album may be an unconscious homage to Kenny Barron's 1973 album 1 + 1 + 1, a pair of collaborations with bassists Ron Carter and Michael Moore, but with an awareness that this new venture is mathematically more complex.
The core language for Williams' quartet writing is early twentieth century, with echoes of Debussy and Ravel, and also of Gershwin (think the 1919 Lullaby). But the permutations of parts give a constant flow of surprises: floated cello melodies for example, violinist John Garner improvising, or one section where the quartet was subtly deepened by a pedal note in the left hand of the piano and a rumbling tremolando tomtom from Ingamells. The album shows many more of these possibilities being playfully, subtly investigated.
The depth of possibilities for this grouping sounds seems to be emerging as the compositions evolve. Preludes to numbers are evolving into larger statements. The whole thing seems organic, alive, work in progress. It is the right project at the right time for the right composer: immensely nourishing musically as it is, but also brim full of promise for what is yet to happen."
Sebastian Scotney, London Jazz News, 15th June 2016
Four Plus Three Album Reviews:
"Jazz with classical strings goes back a century, but the devil has been in the detail of real integration, so the classical players don’t just gracefully trot alongside while the jazzers duck and dive. On this set of originals and canny covers of Cole Porter, Antônio Carlos Jobim and her late jazz-piano heroes Bill Evans and Kenny Kirkland, British pianist Kate Williams has imaginatively fused her jazz trio (featuring bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer David Ingamells) and the pan-European Guastalla string quartet. The compatibility is clear from Love for Sale’s famous opening motif, a languid strings swoon hijacked by a Latin piano vamp easing into hip piano improv, while the Porter original murmurs encouragingly on behind every bold rhythmic turn. Jobim’s cinematically romantic Portrait in Black and White contrasts Williams’ silvery piano sound with the undulations of the strings, and the leader’s terrific, Lennie Tristano-like bebop twister Big Shoes has the whole band sounding like a single nimble instrument. It’s often polished, refined crossover music, but there’s plenty of spark and bite to it."
John Fordham, The Guardian, August 2016
"A sumptuous jazz piano trio plus string quartet set from the consistently thoughtful and inventive Kate Williams. The arrangements integrate the sonorities of the seven musicians with a variety of creative and persuasive approaches to Jobim, Evans and Kirkland pieces, while Williams' own intrepid compositions push things even further. Storm Before Calm stabs and floats, while the transporting Orchid Avenues shimmers beautifully." ****
Chris Ingham, Mojo, August 2016
"The four is the Guastalla string quartet and the three, the jazz trio led by pianist and composer Kate Williams. As the daughter of the great classical guitarist, John Williams, she was brought up in a world where boundaries between musical genres were always fluid, and that is certainly the case here. There is nothing forced or stilted in the combination. The trio plays with genuine swing; the quartet freely deploys its own natural dynamics. Of all the jazz-classical blends I have heard recently this is certainly the most convincing and enjoyable. And Kate Williams is a very good jazz pianist anyway – crisp, incisive and totally at one with the rhythmic ebb and flow." ****
Dave Gelly, The Observer, 12th June 2016
"Pianist Kate Williams seems to be fond of septets: Four Plus Three is her third septet album after Made Up (kwjazz, 2011) and Atlas & Vulcana (kwjazz, 2014). Of course, there are other albums in her discography, including the excellent Smoke & Mirrors duo recording with saxophonist Bobby Wellins (kwjazz, 2012), but the seven-piece ensemble seems to suit the breadth of her ambition. This particular combo—piano, drums and strings, brings a new set of musical possibilities to Williams' originals and arrangements of classic tunes.
In the jazz world Three Plus Four might be considered a more appropriate title—Williams, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer David Ingamells form the piano trio, the members of the Guastalla Quartet form the string section. But such divisions are irrelevant: this is the work of seven talented musicians given equal prominence by the selfless leader. The collaboration began in 2014 when Williams arranged Bill Evans tunes for jazz trio and full orchestra: this is its first appearance on a recording.
There's a wide range of moods and emotions on display here. "Love For Sale" encompasses most of them. This is a stunning interpretation of Cole Porter's classic—even without the lyric there's drama, sadness, energy and adventure, each of the seven players giving their all and at their most expressive. It's followed by another fine interpretation, of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Portrait In Black And White" (a.k.a. "Zingaro"). This time Sergio Serra's cello and Hayhurst's double bass are central to a beautiful performance. Bill Evans' "Walkin' Up" opens with an irresistibly jaunty pizzicato theme from the strings.
Williams' own compositions also range across moods and emotions. Her prowling, confident, "Big Shoes"—strident walking bass, punchy piano, the waspish string quartet—is great fun. "Eleven Tonal" combines some dramatic string playing with calmer passages of gentle swing. "Storm Before Calm" increases the drama, strings and piano creating aural images of tempestuous weather which give way to the calmness of Williams' solo. The ballad "Orchid Avenues" is a solo feature for its composer, with Williams' delicate and spacious playing at its most graceful and melodic—one plus none, so to speak." ****
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz, 5th June 2016
"The Three are pianist Kate Williams, double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer David Ingamells; the Four are violinists John Garner and Marie Schreer, viola player Miguel Rodriguez and cellist Sergio Serra, better known as the Guastalla String Quartet.
So, a piano trio album with strings, you’re thinking? Oh no, as Williams would be quick to correct you. Her arrangements – of mainly her own compositions but also of jazz standards – intertwine the Three and Four in creative and often innovatively different ways, not only from track to track but even within individual pieces. And there’s not a cliché to be heard.
So, on the opener, Love For Sale, we first get the strings alone behaving just as a string quartet might, then as cushioning support for double bass, then the trio takes over, then the strings come in with such attack I thought for an instant a horn section had been magicked up. Jobim’s Portrait In Black And White gets the most sinuous of treatments, while Williams’ Eleven Tonal has a stern edge in amongst the swing.
The two Bill Evans songs – B Minor Waltz and Walkin’ Up – are exquisitely realised, and strongly contrasting too, the former, which Williams leaves entirely to the bass and strings, as lyrical and luxuriating in its light melancholy as a Spring rain shower, the latter a feature for the plucked strings both in front of brushed drums and behind the piano solo. Big Shoes has some great interplay between low piano and high strings, and the leader’s solos are a joy throughout, so well constructed yet so naturally felt. Twilight’s Last Blink has a marvellously atmospheric, and quite dramatic, ending. An album full of delights."
Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast, 17th May 2016
Atlas & Vulcana reviews:
"Kate confirms her status as one of our top piano improvisers with eleven cuts brimming with creativity. Supported by flautist Gareth Lockrane, trumpeter Steve Fishwick, sax supremo Alex Garnett and bassist Oli Hayhurst, the outcome is a welcome addition to her portfolio of prime British jazz."
Musician, Spring 2015
"British pianist/composer Kate Williams makes the kind of jazz albums few younger players attempt these days, let alone pull off with such aplomb – full of graceful storytelling themes and uptempo swing, delicate piano breaks glowing with a Bill Evans hue, bebop horn solos over nimble walking grooves. This is an elegant set of originals for her classy septet, including the flute virtuoso Gareth Lockrane and powerful tenor saxist Alex Garnett. The memorable title track appears in both trio and septet versions, the former opening on an almost Maiden Voyage-like chordal undertow, before pursuing Williams’s patiently wayward melody. Her cool, shapely and sometimes nimbly mischievous writing constantly informs this set – with uptempo tracks such as Duped shifting from a clipped, brightly ascending horn theme to a series of slick solos over walking grooves, tone-poems such as the beautiful Moonset, featuring Gil Evans-like sound mists, and the haunting Ballad for Mr H making full use of Lockrane’s lustrous bass-flute sound. The one cover, Harold Arlen’s My Shining Hour, is given something of the self-conscious perkiness of a 1960s TV science-show theme, but for the most part, Williams’s lyricism, polish and subtle touch make this one of her most accomplished and personal ventures."
John Fordham, The Guardian, 7th November 2014
"Kate Williams has a quality rare among jazz composers: a musical vocabulary that's all her own. Restless, quirky and strewn with odd phrases that should sound out of place but don't, these 11 pieces could be the work of no one else. Featuring her own piano in trio, quartet and seven-piece formats, they clearly take some playing too. Fortunately she has some of Britain's finest players on hand, including flautist Gareth Lockrane, trumpeter Steve Fishwick and saxophonist Alex Garnett. Her originality extends to the unfailingly apt orchestration. On Moonset, the slowly changing textures are gorgeous." ****
Dave Gelly, The Observer, 30th November 2014
"Atlas and Vulcana formed a strongman and strongwoman act—Vulcana's real name was Kate Williams—whose feats of strength were renowned in Victorian and early twentieth century Britain. Pianist and composer Kate Williams (no relation, presumably) takes inspiration from the couple in titling this album and two of its tracks. Atlas & Vulcana has its own strengths—no brute force, but plenty of power and dynamism. Williams has written some stunning tunes: she's also brought together a septet of some of the finest players in the UK. The combination is a winning one.
Williams' 2011 album, Made Up (Kwjazz) was also a septet recording: the following year she released Smoke And Mirrors (Kwjazz), a delightful duo recording with Scottish tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins. Previous albums have featured trios and quartets—so it's clear that Williams has a command of a range of combos. There are one or two small-group tracks on Atlas & Vulcana too—"The Far Side," featuring Gareth Lockrane's flute playing, is a lovely, calm, quartet piece; "Recollection" is a strong but lyrical trio outing—but it's the septet numbers that form the bulk of the album.
"Strange But True" harnesses the instrumental power of the septet on an up-tempo tune that gets its drive from Williams, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Matt Fishwick. The melody hits home straight away, the horn players trade short, strong, solos and Williams lets the whole thing fade away while the energy is still high. "Bear Hops" picks up on this energy and swing—the bebop mood is heightened by Alex Garnett's lively tenor solo.
"Ballad For Mr H"—dedicated to the late bassist Mike Harris, who encouraged Williams in her early career—is suitably gentle and elegiac. Lockrane's warm-toned flute and Williams' upper-register playing are exquisite, Hayhurst and drummer Tristan Mailliot provide understated support. "Moonset" is another graceful ballad, the soft-toned horns reminiscent of a Gil Evans arrangement.
Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "My Shining Hour" is the album's only cover. Hayhurst and Matt Fishwick are key to the cheerful mood of the piece, swinging the rhythm. Some fine ensemble playing and solos from the horns herald Williams' own fast-fingered and swinging solo. "Atlas & Vulcana" opens the album as a trio piece and closes it as a septet performance. In both treatments Williams anchors the beat with a strong left hand. The septet arrangement is the more dramatic, but the trio version is its match in its creation of a distinctive, almost threatening, mood." ****
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz, November 2014
"Kate Williams’ latest album Atlas & Vulcana is a highly accomplished record driven by great writing, effortless arranging and a super-tight band. In Victorian times Atlas and Vulcana were a strongman and woman duo (Vulcana’s real name also being Kate Williams), and the album begins in suitably muscular fashion with a brooding and bustling groove to the title track. Flashes of virtuosity from Williams on piano, Tristan Mailliot on drums and Oli Hayhurst on bass set the scene, and from this point creativity bursts forth in all directions.
The full septet is introduced on the second track Duped: the album’s foundations now established, the richly orchestrated four piece horn section feels like a great splash of colour. Duped begins with a simple idea which then branches out seamlessly across trumpet, sax, trombone and flute – Tom White taking a storming trombone solo. The highly skilled and sometimes mischievous tutti horn sections on this track and alsoBear Hops have echoes of the great charts Loose Tubes wrote in the 80s. In terms of groove and technical virtuosity Strange But True is a real stand-out moment on the album. Here Williams’ natural compositional gifts combine with sublime instrumental work and scintillating solos: Steve Fishwick in particular on trumpet.
However, this record goes beyond romping swing and intense groove. Williams has an acute awareness of timbre and texture in the quieter moments of the album, as Moonset’s misty Gil Evans-style chords and floating bass melody show. The Far Side is another exquisitely crafted piece which begins with overtones of Debussy and Ravel, but also nods to harmonies redolent of early Robert Glasper. The penultimate track on the album is the only one not written by Williams. Her arrangement of the standard My Shining Hour further demonstrates a great natural command of the septet idiom. The band really shines on this track, with Gareth Lockrane on flute effortlessly leading the line in a succession of blistering solos from the band – Alex Garnett at the height of his powers on tenor sax.
The album draws to a close cyclically with a reprise of the title track, this time for septet rather than trio. This is a nice touch and gives shape to the record a whole, but ultimately a sense of concept takes a back seat: Atlas & Vulcana is about excellent writing, naturally creative arranging and first-rate players."
Jonathan Carvell, London Jazz News, November 2014
" Williams marches on as both performer and composer. This is the latest in a series of self-produced albums, its contents matching ten of her pieces with a single standard, 'My Shining Hour', this given a perky make-over. The title track is a trio piece (and re-appears in a septet version as the album's closer, with Lockrane very much on song) marked by a solemn chorded hook, with Mailliot's arhythmic underpinning a feature.
Thereafter, it's the sextet that dominates, with a recurring chorded riff at the heart of 'Duped', White's breezy trombone the first solo voice heard, Williams' chewy piano following, the momentum owing much to Hayhurst. 'Moonset' is more serene with Hayhurst again taking the honours, as 'Bear Hops', well, hops, with flute uppermost, Garnett sidling in and Steve F. soloing ahead of Kate's sprightly piano, the theme returning in aptly agitated fashion.
'The Far Side' is quite lovely and provides further evidence of this composer's care in creating a particular mood, deploying Lockrane's flute attractively, the background harmonies quite understated as he solos, Williams adding her comments before 'All Kinds Of Fun', a suitably spirited romp with Lockrane and Williams again at their most persuasive. Fishwick is at his zippy best on the very lively 'Recollection', Garnett spiralling in behind him as they joust enjoyably.
The touching 'Ballad For Mr H' is dedicated to the late bassist Mike Harris, something of an early mentor for the pianist and incidentally, the player with whom I first saw Kate play in Norfolk while she was a student at UEA.
It's tempting to categorise Williams as a composer who also plays, rather than the other way round. Each of her pieces shows evidence of great care in deploying in deploying the instrumentation she has chosen, her soloists playing their part but always within the boundaries set by her, the ensembles often quite tricky to play. Composition really matters to her, that's for sure. There's nothing casual here." ****
Peter Vacher, Jazzwise, February 2015
Live Review: Kate Williams Quartet, Bebop Club, Bristol, 5th October 2012
Review by Mike Collins, www.jazzyblogman.wordpress.com
It’s not often that you hear full on Bebop at the BeBop Club. Kate Williams launched into Celia, bop piano pioneer Bud Powell’s composition, at a blistering pace to end the first set, playing the melody in both hands with its flurry of notes, distinctive interval leaps and chromaticisms whilst Gareth Lockrane’s flute was completely in step. The modern edge to the quartet’s take on the classic was emphasised by the arranging; lots of rhythmic stabs from Oli Hayhurst on bass and Tristan Mailliot on drums catching stresses in the melody and the racing swing under the the solos propelled by broken phrases and skips from the bass. And the soloing was edge of the seat stuff especially from Gareth Lockrane on this one. He brandished just about every size of flute available throughout the evening but for this one he picked up the one with the fewest keys and smallest range to play possibly the most notes of the evening, each phrase drawing the ear onto the next at breakneck speed to be greeted by roars by the packed club (the most I’ve seen there for a while) and a cheer from my other pair of ears who clocked the quote from Charlie Parker’s Confirmation. Not every tune was raw bebop, but the writing and arranging of the leader drawing the most out of a fabulous band was a consistent feature and the language and feeling of bop was never far away albeit with that contemporary twist. Much use was made of catchy little rythmic figures to stitch sections of tunes together, frequently doubled by bass and Kate’s left hand on the piano, and some choice selections from other writers’ pads (Eliane Elias and Jason Rebello were two). There were plenty of originals, a new untitled composition in the second set with a gentle latin feel drew my favourite piano solo of the evening with with flowing lyrical lines and expressive embellishments wrapping themselves round the flute’s statement of the theme. This is a cracking quartet, each member threatening to steal the show with some thrilling moments but the strength of the writing meant the group sound was the enduring impression.
Smoke And Mirrors Reviews
Chris Ingham, Mojo **** (December 2012)
An enchanting intimate meeting of sensitive musical souls, Smoke And Mirrors finds veteran Scottish tenor man making sweet music with Kate Williams, daughter of guitarist John and one of the UK's most distinctive composer/pianists. Wellins' approach has something of the achingly beautiful sound and edgy romanticism of late-period Stan Getz, with his own wily twist making him the ideal foil for the left-field formalities of Williams. The musicians weave and dance and banter with such grace and elegance, the listener feels like an eavesdropper on a witty and warm conversation between lifelong friends, full of empathy, unspoken understanding and private jokes. Highlights include the Lennie Tristano-esque counterpoint of Minor Pennies, an uncommonly slow version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's If You Never Come To Me and the shimmering mystery of the title track.
Dave Gelly, The Observer (August 2012)
The sound - slightly foggy, with a slow, lazy vibrato - is unique. It has been part of Bobby Wellins throughout his long career, and it comes across beautifully in this set of duets for tenor saxophone and piano with Kate Williams. It's a difficult format, with not even a bass for a rhythmic safety net, but the rapport between them is so close that everything flows with easy assurance, particularly in their quirky joint composition, PS. And to discover how effectively two really good musicians can bring out the beauty in a simple melody, hear their version of the old standard Imagination.
John Fordham, The Guardian **** (July 2012)
The Scottish saxophonist Bobby Wellins and English pianist-composer Kate Williams sound made for each other in this collection of standard songs and originals, recorded in rehearsal and in concert at Halifax's Dean Clough arts centre last year. It is, of course, an intimate exploration of a familiar rulebook between a slow-burn saxist with leanings toward the 1950s cool school, and a quietly elegant Bill Evans-inflected pianist. But it's also about the best qualities of jazz, irrespective of style or fashion – about sharing, spontaneity, communication and surprise. Wellins's most famous recorded performance was his solo on Starless and Bible Black for Stan Tracey's Under Milk Wood suite. That unique and haunting tone – gruff yet hopeful – surfaces all over this set, from the first sparing sax phrases and coaxing piano figures of the title track. The standard While We Were Young is solemnly delicate, with Williams's classically influenced encouragement allowing Wellins to let purring, wide-spaced sounds just hang in the air. The original Minor Pennies is sinewy and boppish, the pianist's dreamy unaccompanied reverie What If has a Bill Evans fragility, and Antonio Carlos Jobim's If You Never Come to Me Again finds Wellins in his yearning, confiding element. It's an unpretentiously delightful encounter.
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz, June 2012
Although this is the first recording by the Wellins/Williams duo, they have worked together many times and their affinity towards each other is clear in these performances. They recorded this album on the 17th of November 2011 at the Crossley Gallery in Halifax, Yorkshire—an unusual venue but, on the evidence of this album, recorded by Andrew Cleyndert who coproduced with Williams, it's one that provided superb acoustics.
Williams' solo performance of her own "What If..." is graceful and affecting, but it's when she and Wellins perform together that this album reaches its musical heights. The opening bars of "Smoke And Mirrors," one of three jointly composed tunes on the album, set the standard: languid, relaxed interplay between tenor saxophone and piano that has the effortless ease that can only come from players in total command of their craft.
The duo's crowning glory is in its interpretation of two standards. On Antonio Carlos Jobim's "If You Never Come To Me," Wellins' tenor is to the fore, his reedy and warm tone perfectly suited to the romantic melody. For George Gershwin's "The Man I Love" Williams creates a gently swinging rhythm over which Wellins plays the well-known melody straight, with little embellishment; a masterful reminder that "less is more" is a wise philosophy.
It's quite possible that Wellins has never played an unnecessary note. Williams is also savvy enough to know that showy displays of quick-fire technique should never take precedence over the music. So Smoke And Mirrors is an outstandingly calm and calming recording; never threatening a sonic explosion—it doesn't need to—it just glows, giving out a warmth and a charm all its own.
Made Up reviews
Chris Ingham, Mojo **** (September 2011)
“Made Up is a striking summation and reflection of Kate Williams' singular gifts. With trio, quartet and quintet albums behind her, she stretches to a seven-piece for her fourth album and the expanded palette of sounds is a thrilling vehicle for her evolving and unusual musical imagination. She deftly exploits the timbral possibilities of Gareth Lockrane's flute, Julian Siegel's bass clarinet, Ben Somers' tenor saxophone and Steve Fishwick's trumpet on a series of witty, eccentric charts, full of enchanting compositional twists and fertile arrangement ideas. The set ranges from the almost comically quirky Climbing Up Falling Down and the elegiac Untitled Peace Piece to the twisted samba For Eliane and the epic title track. The playing is first-class throughout with drummer Tristan Mailliot particularly in tune with every nuance of Williams' tumbling invention."
Live Review of Made Up CD Launch:
**** Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 7th October 2011
"To say that a musician exemplifies the phrase “more is less” risks making them seem puritanical, or just ungenerous. Pianist and composer Kate Williams is neither of those. She makes every note count, and yet the music emerges as rich and flavoursome as a fruit cake — as was shown by this gig to launch the new album Made Up with her Septet.
Everything we heard was composed by Williams, and much of the music’s relish had to do with her keen harmonic sense. Williams doesn’t make a habit of sitting on a repeating chord sequence, which is the lurking vice of much jazz composition these days.Her music is always heading somewhere purposefully, often via a louche chord sequence very reminiscent of Fifties cool jazz. When a repeating pattern does appear, it’s a temporary affair, strategically placed to wind up the tension, as in a fine number entitled Depiction.
These moments show how Williams likes to set a narrow emotional range, just to give herself the pleasure of breaking out of it. It’s an engaging trait, shown also in her shrewd way of fashioning introductions which launch off in one direction, but eventually make a landfall in quite a different territory - as in the quietly expressive quartet number Pelagic.
All this was projected in an enticing range of colours. Ranged across the front of the 606 stage were two reeds players, Ben Somers and Julian Siegel, plus flautist Gareth Lockrane and trumpeter Steve Fishwick. Between them they played nine instruments, and the varieties of colours Williams coaxed from them, from edgy muted trumpet to liquid bass flute, was astonishing.
Everyone shone in their own fashion. Two players that stick in my memory are Steve Fishwick, shapely and floating on flugelhorn, and Julian Siegel making witty play with the possibilities of just one note. And of course Kate Williams herself, darting from Fender Rhodes to piano, smiling at the infectious energy of it all, but never losing her sense of focus."
Chris Parker, London Jazz, October 2011
'Lucid and inventive' are the adjectives applied by the late Humphrey Lyttelton to the pianist/composer Kate Williams, and this, her fourth – and most ambitious – album to date (previous outings have involved a trio, quartet and quintet; this features a septet on six of its eight tracks) might have been specially made to embody these qualities.
Unshowy, subtle, musicianly, Williams has always inhabited the area of the music previously occupied by the likes of John Lewis, or to come closer to home and change instruments, Kenny Wheeler, her music relying for its considerable power not on climactic grandstanding but on elegance and grace, just as her own playing is notable for its delicate but none the less effective rhythmic displacements rather than sizzling solo runs played at blistering speed.
Here, she has skilfully assembled a band of like minds – Gareth Lockrane (flutes), trumpeter Steve Fishwick, reeds players Ben Somers and Julian Siegel – to supplement her regular rhythm section, bassist Jeremy Brown (replaced by Oli Hayhurst on a couple of tracks) and drummer Tristan Mailliot and they negotiate her pleasingly tricksy themes (and the one non-original, Eliane Elias's 'One Side of You') with stylish brio. Cogent, lively and insinuatingly memorable, Made Up provides, in spades, further evidence of a considerable composing (and bandleading) talent.
Humphrey Lyttleton, BBC Radio 2
“ A superbly lucid and inventive pianist and composer.”
Claire Martin, BBC Radio 3
“I think we’re going to hear far more of Kate Williams in the future.”
Peter Vacher, Jazz UK, April 2008
“Pianist-composer Williams is quietly compiling a discography of genuine worth and consequence. This is her working quintet with Canadian tenor-saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, alongside Gareth Lockrane and his array of flutes. They’re backed by the resourceful pairing of bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Tristan Mailliot on a series of Williams originals (bar one standard). ‘Elements of Five’ cleverly tinkers with structure and ingeniously changes tempo and mood around Williams’ lyrical piano. The whole album is infused with a kind of laid-back elegance, and the remarkable Lockrane is virtuosic with his alto flute on ‘Moon and Sand’ (in duo with Williams), while Kaldestad is happy to dig in with vigour on the perkier uptempo features.”
Peter Quinn, Jazzwise, July 2008:
“This fourth album from pianist/composer Kate Williams is the first to feature her new quintet, and quite a band it is too. The singular talents gathered here demonstrate complete empathy with the leader’s circuitous narratives, their nuanced approach handling the trickiest time changes with practised ease. Williams certainly makes the most of her expanded sound palette – her previous three releases were either quartet or trio settings – with the Lockrane/Kaldestad front line opening up all kinds of new contrapuntal possibilities. These are most clearly evidenced in the harmonised melodic lines of the propulsively rhythmic opener ‘Elements of Five’, the angular ‘Chapter 34’ and the bracing ‘Something About April’. If ‘Silhouette’ occupies the same inward-looking, hymnal quality so beloved of Abdullah Ibrahim, Lockrane’s multitracked flutes heard at the opening of the title track brings a Gil Evans-type luxuriance to proceedings. Aside from her own clarity of articulation, assured comping skills and rock-solid rhythmic feel, The Embrace vividly conveys Williams’ fecund imagination and compositional acuity.”
Chris Parker, 2007:
“Kate Williams is not only one of the subtlest pianists currently operating in the UK… but she is also, as the material on this fine quintet album demonstrates, a highly skilled composer of immediately appealing but absorbing themes.”
Chris Parker, March 2006:
‘You could have heard the proverbial pin drop while Williams spun solos packed with dynamic and textural nuance from her melodic, gently lyrical original material, interspersing it with intriguing visits to modern jazz classics by the likes of Thelonious Monk. A small triumph, not only for Williams and her hair-trigger-accurate rhythm section (lithe bassist Jeremy Brown and brisk drummer Tristan Mailliot), but also for the aforementioned Vortex Steinway, which positively sang under her fingers.’
Chris Parker, February 2006:
'For her third album, Dankworth-award-winning pianist Kate Williams has recorded eight originals and a couple of jazz classics (Ellington/Strayhorn’s ‘Day Dream’ and ‘Monk’s Dream’) with an alert, responsive rhythm section: bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Tristan Mailliot. Although loosely themed around both its overall and individual titles (‘The Scenic Route’ an appropriately meandering theme, ‘Water’s Edge’ containing suitably ‘lapping’ piano sounds, etc.) the album is a richly varied programme. Williams is an unshowy, subtle player, relying on displacements of rhythmic emphasis rather than dazzling runs to make her musical points, but her soloing is none the less cogent and powerful for that, and her themes, ranging from the overtly lyrical to the tastefully percussive, are immediately memorable, intensely melodic yet complex enough to provide absorbing bases for lively trio interaction. Admirably unfussy, impeccably performed, this is a fine trio album from a pianist/composer who should be better known.'
Peter Vacher , February 2006:
Williams has found her voice as both composer and player. For this, her third CD, the London-based pianist has chosen again to trust her own judgment as far as the material is concerned and produced the best CD of her career so to date. I’ve played it a lot and can commend it for its range and thoughtful quality.There are Monkian moments and more than a hint of Bill Evans’s gliding momentum but mostly what you hear is from Williams herself. She’s a serious player, and I mean that as a compliment, her musings complemented by the polished support of Brown and Mailliot who know when to put their collective foot down or back off. Williams likes catchy motifs, as on ‘Disparity’, with its opening riff and sudden shifts of mood and texture. ‘I’m Still Awake’ is a springy groover, harmonically canny, with a Thelonious twist, the improvisation spare yet swingy, with Maillot and Brown purring along in pursuit. With ten pieces, eight by Williams herself, plus ‘Day Dream’ by Duke and ‘Monk’s Dream’, there’s plenty here to digest, clever voicings at every turn, the musicmostly concise yet potent too.
“Pianist Kate Williams writes robustly and fashions clean, cool improvised lines of cerebral discernment, evoking Tristano and Jarrett… ‘Looking Out’ further displays the pianist’s cerebral and quirky imagination in both composition and improvisation. On an instrument where many players are difficult to distinguish from each other, here is a genuine talent to watch.”