Saturday, August 17, 2013

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
The Mars explorer

Today, let's look at some videos featuring saxophonist Mars Williams, who's coming to St. Louis to team with bassist Darin Gray and drummer Tyler Damon for a concert at 7:00 p.m. Friday, August 23 at the St. Louis Art Museum. The event is sponsored by SLAM and New Music Circle.

Williams, who grew up in the Chicago area and studied with Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, is a versatile player who first became known to rock fans as a member of the early 1980s "new wave" band the Waitresses. He's kept a foot in the rock world as a longtime member of the Psychedelic Furs, but spends much of his time performing with a variety of jazz and creative music ensembles, ranging from the funk-jazz band Liquid Soul to the free jazz and improvised music of Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble, Ken Vandermark, Peter Brotzmann, and his own groups.

Given the nature of free improv, there's obviously no way to offer a preview of any specific pieces that Williams, Gray and Damon will play next week. But one certainly can get some insight into a player's sound and tendencies, favorite strategies, pet licks, and so on from similar performances, and so today, we present a half-dozen videos that show Williams improvising with small ensembles.

First up, there are a couple of clips from 2011 showing Williams leading a trio at the Project Lodge in Madison, WI, with fellow Chicagoan Kent Kessler on bass and the Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love.

The third video shows Williams with what then was called the Scorch Trio, now known simply as Scorch, and consisting of Williams, guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, bassist Ingebrigt H. Flaten and percussionist Frank Rosaly.

The fourth clip shows Williams, Brotzmann, and trumpeter Peter Evans, in an excerpt from a performance with drummer Michael Wertmuller's Wertmuller Project in 2008 at the Berlin Jazz Fest. The fifth clip is another excerpt from same show, shot from a different position with a bit of camera shake, but with good audio quality.

The final video is an excerpt from the debut performance of Williams' quartet Switchback, recorded in March of this year at a show in Belgium. In addition to Williams, the group includes Waclaw Zimpel on alto and soprano clarinet, Hilliard Greene on bass and Klaus Kugel on percussion.

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