Tony Williams, Play or Die, M. I. G. ****

We gravitated to this reissue because of recently hearing a new version of 'Lawra' on the upcoming 5-star Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas Cellar Live album, Valse Sinistre. The number is rendered here in a with-vocals - Tony Williams himself - …

Published: 29 Jun 2022. Updated: 42 days.

We gravitated to this reissue because of recently hearing a new version of 'Lawra' on the upcoming 5-star Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas Cellar Live album, Valse Sinistre. The number is rendered here in a with-vocals - Tony Williams himself - treatment as 'There Comes a Time' a song that was on the troubled release by The Tony Williams Lifetime, Ego.

Listen above to the Ego (1971) version of 'There Comes a Time'

Above dip into the new to 2022 radically different wondrously rearranged and judiciously edited (particularly the dim.-to-fade towards the end) Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas Valse Sinistre 'Lawra' non-vocal version of the piece as 'There Comes a Time' is also known

Tony Williams of course the drummer in the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet and so because of this one of the greats in the whole history of jazz and that was just for starters in terms of his contribution to the music globally is found here in new wave synth era trio mode from 1980, an album often talked about but less often around (only surfacing much later in Japan in the early-1990s if rumours are correct) as it were even though copies but not this new and upcoming remastered version, are found more recently on YouTube. Unfortunately so far we can't share a track but perhaps can update on release.

The key point here and why it's worth getting is that this new M. I. G. (Made In Germany) reissue was remastered from the original master for 21st century ears and even on a cheap laptop via a very compressed sound link the clarity of the audio pokes your ears out.

The 1980s were a funny time, funny as in dispiriting culturally and politically, with a lot of naff keyboards sounds around back then to say the least especially in the pop world. And yet the keyboards sound of Tom Grant recommended to Williams by Jeff Lorber apparently is certainly NOT cheesy or naff. Bass guitarist Patrick O’Hearn completes Tony's band and is suitably thunderous at the right moments for instance on O'Hearn tune 'Beach Ball Tango'. Think a looser version of the synth pop new wave production you got on a Gary Numan record and you aren't that far away from the dare we put it ''aura'' of it all. But no matter how interesting the tunes and they are we ended up listening to the Tony Williams part basically and ignoring everything else. Well, most of the time.

A frenzied tumble of paradiddles here, a volcanic crash there, few (apart from the late Afrobeat innovator Tony Allen or long before Big Sid Catlett to name two giants) can also match Williams' individual use of the bass drum - and the sheer velocity of his technique all makes it tempting but a bit anal to try to get a version of his drum part on its own and listen to it sans everything else or as an alternative just to the affecting vocals on 'There Comes a Time.'

But having noted all that above nothing jars and there are some fine keyboard passages to immerse yourself in and the bass ideas all work. You can get the album which was recorded in a Stuttgart studio on vinyl too but a digital version is more than fine. Let's hope the latest Tony Williams revival of interest begins because of this amazing reissue, a trend stalled since Jack DeJohnette's great Trio Beyond, Lifetime, homage made along with Sco and Larry Goldings that proved the last big stab in the right direction and also tremendous live back in 2006. Listening to Tony Williams remains a significant thrill 25 years after his death and 42 years after this recording was made it's common sense not just to acknowledge but to report that reaction.

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Tags: reviews reissues and archival

Secret Sun Sessions, Empress, Wollesonic ****

Track of the day and new in the One Love spot - with Kenny Wolleson sounding in context quite Adam Nussbaum-like in the underpinning of his drum line and including the East/West era (and way before) Frisellian's overdubbed vibes, percussion and …

Published: 29 Jun 2022. Updated: 42 days.

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Track of the day and new in the One Love spot - with Kenny Wolleson sounding in context quite Adam Nussbaum-like in the underpinning of his drum line and including the East/West era (and way before) Frisellian's overdubbed vibes, percussion and electric piano organically blended along with his erstwhile Norah Jones colleague the great songwriter Jesse Harris (both are on 2002 megasmash Come Away With Me) on bass guitar and overdubbed guitar plus trumpeter C. J. ''Carm'' Cameriera from the Paul Simon band completing the line-up. Harris taps a practically kinetic country blues connotation, some tasty distortion filtering through as the sound gets dirty. And that all leads into a tiny but deft bass guitar riff that keyboards respond to by going more overtly electric a bit. Carm after some under-the-radar riffery comes in later to leg it up the scale with some sense of abandon before the relative dystopia of the end of the lit-up-inside number tangles us up suitably in a riot of blue. Out today

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