World-renowned Bassist Ben Williams has just released his sophomore album entitled “Coming of Age,” on the Concord Jazz label. Formats for this album includes CDs, Digital Downloads and Vinyl. On this new effort, Ben implores elements of Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock and Soul. The album contains eleven selections (nine are originals composed by Ben) and features the likes of trumpeter – Christian Scott, vibraphonist – Stefon Harris, Emcee/poet – W. Ellington Felton and soul vocalist – Goapele. The core band of musicians for the album are Marcus Strickland (tenor and soprano saxophone), Mathew Stevens (guitar), Christian Sands (Piano and fender Rhodes), Masayuki “Big Yuki” Hirano (synths and fender Rhodes), John Davis drums) and Etienne Charles (percussion), collectively known as Sound Effect. Coming of Age for the 30-year-old Williams means playing a lively role among his peers and a vital part in the music world at large.
“My career as a bandleader and composer started from the moment I won,” he says. “I had this opportunity to say something—and an obligation, too.”
Interview with Examiner/Muzilog’s Samuel Archer
Samuel – It’s great to be able to interview you again and I’m happy you have a second album. I’m looking at the title – Coming of Age, so my first question is what’s behind the title?
Ben – With this album it’s really all about growth and stepping (tapping or tuning) into myself, so to speak. There’s growth on different levels as a composer, as a musician and being able to reflect the music that I feel. My first album was an introduction but every experience since then is contributing to my music.
Samuel – What did you like about your first album and what’s different on this album in reference to your composing and the approach to recording the album?
Ben – I’m very proud of the first album, it’s a good snapshot of where I was at that time. The first album was the result of me winning the Monk Institute competition. I think that I made a statement with the first album and I was very conscious of representing what people may associate with my sound and setting the tone for my career. Coming of age is a continuation of that. Part of my mission objective is to create different characters because I think all my songs are characters in a play to create the overall picture and to tell the story with each song.
Samuel – I notice you have a different look this time around.
Ben – Yeah, I cut the hair. I think it plays into everything else. I think that growth is change; you can’t have growth without change. I know it’s just a look or a physical thing (to some people) but hair is like a spiritual thing to me you know, so it was like a spiritual moment when I cut my hair. I had that style for about fifteen years, so half of my life I had locks and there was a lot of energy, a lot of stuff in that hair so when I let it go it was part of a transformation process.
Samuel – Ok, you know I just had to ask that question because, like you said, “Hair is a spiritual thing” to some folks. The fact that you took the time to grow and nurture your locks, I know when something like locks are being cut it’s a really big thing.
Samuel – Let’s talk about some of the folks you have with you on the album
Ben – The core of it is my working band called Sound Effect – Marcus Strickland (tenor and soprano saxophone), Mathew Stevens (guitar), Christian Sands (Piano and fender Rhodes), John Davis (drums), that’s the core band and Etienne Charles who’s a great trumpet player but on this album he plays percussion. I also have Masayuki “Big Yuki” Hirano playing synths on the album. I’ve got a few special guests on the album – Goapele, Christian Scott, Stefan Harris and W.E. Felton.
Samuel – What was it like to put this album together, did you go with the flow or did you envision it first and went in the studio, what was it like?
Ben – It was a little bit of both. I definitely had some specific things I wanted to say. I wanted to make an album that would be hard to categorize because my music is not intended for a narrow audience, it’s about the human experience. I want to make music that everybody can relate to and find him or herself in. I’m trying to be as honest as I can and not shoot for any particular kind of thing. Really to be a vessel and there’s also input from my band mates. They’re all amazing musicians and they’re all leaders in their own right. Our music is a collaborative effort and I can just let go the reigns with them and we just go on a journey when we play together. I definitely wanted to showcase the chemistry and the bond of the band.
For more information on Ben Williams visit: Benwilliamsmusic.net
Face Book: www.facebook.com/benwilliamsjazz
To read the press release: http://muzilog.com/archives/2035