Willie Williams

Comet Ride

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The fact that saxophonist Willie Williams is from Philadelphia, combined with the cool, retro, space graphics and the title Comet Ride, might lead some to expect a Sun Ra-style space-jazz freak-out. But while there's an adventurous feel to this trio set, the longtime T.S. Monk sideman keeps to the tonal side of modern jazz throughout. In fact, after the spirited title track, the album settles into a fairly placid groove for its first half, following the lovely, floating "Tenor Ballet" with a pair of post-bop ballads, the gently melodic "I'm Misunderstood" and the slightly more outside "Three Generations," that strongly recall John Coltrane's late-'50s work with Monk. The feisty "Freedom Suite" kicks off the more up-tempo second half of this double-album-length set; not the Sonny Rollins masterpiece of the same title, this powerful 15-minute workout marries Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance" to two Jimmy Heath classics, "Gingerbread Boy" and "C.T.A." in a showcase for Williams' aggressive solos. Drummer Rudy Walker gets the spotlight in the funk shuffle "Mo' Grits," while Gary Wang's brief but effective bass solos throughout the album betray a hint of Jimmy Garrison influence in their melodic inventiveness. Overall, Comet Ride is a solid, modern outing that makes one wish this sideman did more work as a leader and composer.

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