The legendary saxophonist and composer Steve Williamson plays the CBSO Centre this Saturday, 18th May, with his latest project, Stringting, details here. Mike Hobart’s review in the Financial Times of the London concert had this to say:
Williamson’s compositions, like his playing, fuse chunks of jazz history with a depth and detail that few match. Here they were brought confidently to life by a sparse double bass and drum rhythm section — both of college student age — and the equally youthful string quartet StringTing. Williamson was the featured soloist throughout, prowling the stage while warm angular lines, chromatic turns and the occasional blues-laced lick tumbled out of his tenor sax.
Steve Williamson has been hailed as “one of the most distinctive saxophone voices in contemporary British jazz”. He began playing the saxophone at just 16 and played in reggae bands such as Misty in Roots before studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music in 1984.
In 1990, Williamson released his first album A Waltz for Grace followed by the release of Rhyme Time just two years later and his third album Journey To Truth, released in 1994. At that time Steve was close to Steve Coleman, the instigator of the M-Base movement and Steve’s albums brought together elements of funk, hip hop as well as jazz. His own playing continued to display the inventiveness and unique sound that were a feature of his playing with The Jazz Warriors, formed in the mid-1980s.
In the 1990s Steve hooked up with Art Blakey and became an ‘honorary’ member of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He did a week with the band and even interviewed him for Channel 4. In the same period Steve also toured in the USA with Donald Byrd and his Jazzamatazz band, and did guest spots with Gil Scott-Heron and Ali Farka Toure.
In a recent interview in Jazzwise (May 2019) Steve talks of his admiration for Blakey’s ability to mentor young players. The Jazz Messengers had begun in the 1950s and continued until Blakey’s death in 1990, and throughout those years Blakey mentored great players such as Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and the Marsalis brothers
In his latest project Steve will be working with two young players who have graduated from the Tomorrow’s Warriors, the 18-year old drummer Zoe Pascal and bass player Hamish Moore, as well as a classical string quartet.
Steve sees the members of the string quartet as four individuals rather than as one unit and talks of how they influence the lines he plays and how he will ‘slightly change or reshape melodies as he sees how they approach things’. Steve also talks of how his writing for the group is influenced by his fascination for the cyclical nature of water and its flow.
Town Hall Symphony Hall’s Jazzlines programme has had the pleasure of presenting Steve Williamson twice, once in the 90s and later in the early 2000s in a group that also featured Gary Crosby on bass.