… again an album to cherish.

Miles Music MMCD090

Gareth Williams (piano); Martin France (drums); Palle Danielsson (double bass); Chris Laurence (double bass)

Recorded 28-29 August 2019

Albums by Gareth Williams are always a guarantee of quality but sadly few and far between. Far too modest for his own good the pianist has spent much of his career in helping others sound good. It is therefore a real treat that a new recording is now available from Gareth, and it is again an album to cherish.

Short Stories presents ten new compositions by two different trios along with two standards. The standards stand alone in the set as features for the pianist with Wiliams sounding wistful on a solo piano reading of ‘Who Can I Turn To?’, that becomes more assertive and decisive as the piece progresses along with a piano and vocal performance from on ‘Too Young To Go Steady’ where Williams allows himself a moment in the spotlight.

Of the original compositions, the two trios handle the music quite differently, each having a distinctive sound and approach to the material, and the way in which bassist’s Laurence and Danielsson interact with piano, and drums is fascinating to compare.

Chris Laurence participates in six of the original pieces and his playing has a directness and assurance that give the trio a solid grounding. His playing on ‘Unwritten Hymn’ is steadfast yet frugal allowing a dialogue to emerge that is unhurried and uncluttered, commenting fully in the three-way conversation and when taking his solo brings the same sense of restraint saying just what is required and no more.

This is equally true of the driving ‘Derivatives’ where Laurence pushes and pulls in all the right places. By doing so he anchors down the time, and this allows Williams and France to be far more expansive in their own contributions. And if you are looking for something straight ahead, just check out ‘One More Blues’ with the propulsive bass playing making this a blues to remember with a dazzling solo from Williams.

‘Islands Of Men’ and ‘Another Waltz’ are far more expansive in their delivery, and the pianist embellishes the melodies creating space that wisely his colleagues choose not to fill creating a delicious tension in the music.

The second trio featuring Palle Danielsson brings a less taut feeling to proceedings. With Danielsson’s choice of notes and just where to place them the music takes on a more relaxed air. Even the wonderfully crafted ‘Buster Keaton’ with its cleverly modulating theme, and slowly developing melody line from the piano cannot ruffle the bassist’s feathers.  France’s commentary at the kit is spellbinding.

This particular trio shine on the two longest numbers of the set at just over the seven mark each. ‘For Palle’ has some exquisite bass playing with Danielsson’s lovely tone on the double bass given full reign and a suitable sensitive accompaniment from Williams and France’s brushwork at the kit.

The opening ‘Not Bossa’ has an opening statement form the pianist that at once sounds familiar, and then is quickly dispelled as the piano continues to open up the melody as if waiting for bass and drums to join. When they do the music takes the listener on a journey that is gentle and undulating, and full of interesting twists and turns.

If patience is the name of the game, Gareth Williams certainly expects this from his many admirers; but when he does step into the recording studio, we can immediately forgive him for keeping us waiting as the results are quietly spectacular.

Reviewed by Nick Lea