'If You Hear Me' from Ben Williams album I Am A Man streams ahead of Ronnie Scott's appearance

Signed to José James' label Rainbow Blonde bassist-vocalist Ben Williams (best known for his work with Pat Metheny and as a Monk Prize winner) signals a firm R'n'B and neosoul direction on I Am A Man (the title referencing a Memphis African American …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 6 months.

Signed to José James' label Rainbow Blonde bassist-vocalist Ben Williams (best known for his work with Pat Metheny and as a Monk Prize winner) signals a firm R'n'B and neosoul direction on I Am A Man (the title referencing a Memphis African American sanitation workers’ strike in 1968) to be released in early-February 2020.

Keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist David Rosenthal, reedist Marcus Strickland, percussionist Bendji Allonce, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, flautist Anne Drummond, and drummers Jamire Williams and Justin Brown are also on the album. A string quartet and vocalists Kendra Foster, Muhsinah, Wes Felton, and Niles also figure.

Williams and his band Sound Effect play the EFG London Jazz Festival and Ronnie Scott's on Saturday 23 November as part of a European tour.

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Timo Lassy quintet, The Pheasantry, King’s Road, London

From August 2015. Skinny-tied, lightly bearded, long and lean, blowing like Dexter, watchful, alert – apparently this was Timo Lassy’s first London gig with his band – rolling on from a Brecon Jazz Festival appearance at the weekend. Here on the …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 7 months.

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From August 2015. Skinny-tied, lightly bearded, long and lean, blowing like Dexter, watchful, alert – apparently this was Timo Lassy’s first London gig with his band – rolling on from a Brecon Jazz Festival appearance at the weekend.

Here on the King’s Road in Chelsea – among the rock folklore of this remarkable building Eric Clapton even lived upstairs in the Cream years long before it was a pizza restaurant – the Finn was appearing in the basement club for the first time with his quintet, the Ethiopia-born Abdissa Assefa on congas and percussion the engine of the high performance rhythm section purring into Don Alias-like high altitude cruise control mode knitting in with the young sharp suited baby faced drummer Ville Pynssi the latter looking as if he is just about old enough to shave.

Lassy let the band open up to warm the stage before he strolled on, hair swept back, the blow-dried look, the quiet surge of Giorgos Kontrafouris (also known as George Kontrafouris) on Wurlitzer electric piano wrinkling out the knots and untangling the curls of the twists and turns of the tenor line on ‘Green Pepper Strut.’

‘African Rumble’, featured on Lassy’s debut The Soul and Jazz of Timo Lassy from some eight years back, was a nice surprise towards the end, while ‘Fast Fabio’, the fifth track of the new album had some incredible scurrying energy to it, the congas of Assefa locking with drummer Pynssi although the big drum solo didn’t quite catch fire.

Lassy, terrific this year with much of his band here on Joyce Elaine Yuille’s poised debut album Welcome to My World, has made a lot of new friends with Love Bullet his ace new album released on the Membran label. Tracks from it (nearly all the saxist’s originals) that got an airing early on included ‘Waltz Unsolved’ certainly the big highlight of the album, vibes-flavoured on that version, sounding a little different here blessed still with that Dexter Gordon-like romantic hero lead theme that diverts off… percussion and drums chopping the rhythm up and sharing it out democratically.

Lassy didn’t speak to the audience much apart from mentioning that he’d be playing material mainly drawn from the album and noted that “wi-i-i-i-deos,” in his mellifluously Finnish-accented English, and ‘vinyls’ were available by the door. And this is a vinyl band in many ways, a suitably tactile warmth to the sound that even transfers to CD. Double bassist Ville Herrala took a great arco solo later (no one went to the bar at that point), and while Herrala might have looked as if he had just come from a funeral, he buried his sorrow or nerves completely to burn out veritable riff-burning flames licking up and down the strings as he somehow managed to stamp his beats with his own well-crafted touch while at all times providing a springy mobility that allowed Lassy to leap and lope, meander and mooch as his own style insists.

It’s pretty obvious then from this showing that Lassy has a superb sound, strong and communicative, energetic and knowing, and his band got a warm reception from a club that eventually filled up healthily enough certainly for a Monday night. Clapton, these days apparently enough of a jazz lover to turn up at Kurt Rosenwinkel gigs, might just as well have still been floating about inside the fabric of the place… digging the Lassy vibe. SG

Giorgos Kontrafouris on Wurlitzer, Timo Lassy, tenor saxophone (bassist Ville Herrala not visible behind him), Ville Pynssi, drums, and Abdissa ‘Mamba’ Assefa, congas and percussion, in full flow as the gig gets underway. Pic. marlbank