Up to the Minute Blues

James Williams

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Up to the Minute Blues Review

by Ken Dryden

This excellent CD by pianist James Williams features two tracks from an unusual session with two superb drummers, Tony Reedus and Bill Higgins, plus unissued music from the date that produced the CD James Williams Meets the Saxophone Masters. The earlier date produced the opening driving blues by the leader, "Common Knowledge," with Williams taking top solo honors. The title track that closes this release is another Williams composition; this easygoing blues includes some fine drum breaks and the rich tenor sax of Billy Pierce, as well as a choice solo by Williams. The middle four tracks showcase tenor saxophonists George Coleman and Joe Henderson along with Pierce, with Reedus on drums and James Genus taking over on bass from Ray Drummond. The exotic rhythm of Henderson's "Afro Centric" is very catchy and features some of the best solos of the date. The foot-patting arrangement of Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk" is a nice surprise; though the sound is very different from the way Count Basie approached it, he surely would approve of this slow but swinging chart. Elvin Jones' "Three Card Molly" burns with the energy of its composer. This should be an essential purchase for anyone who picked up Williams' earlier CD with these three outstanding tenors.

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