What distinguishes guitarist Brad Allen Williams’ August release Lamar from the ordinary jazz trio album is not so much its choice of material, not so much its instrumental make-up, and not so much its innovative playing. What distinguishes Lamar is its return to older recording techniques in an attempt to reproduce the human feel and vibe of an ensemble playing together, without any digital games.
As Williams’ liner notes point out: “”The vinyl release of this will have never touched a computer at all. It was recorded with the three of us in one great-sounding room together using the best analog tape machines and a great analog engineer.” Echoing an aesthetic idea that goes back at least to the 19th century, Williams goes on to explain that he believes that the humanity of a musical performance isn’t in mechanical perfection, but in the preservation of “the little hiccups; the little mistakes.” Blotting out the warts blots out the humanity.
Besides when you are fronting a tight trio where the musicians have played together over the years and know each other well, there may be “hiccups” and “mistakes,” but if there are, they will be few and far between. If the price for a powerful humane musical experience is a wart or two, it is a small price to pay. Williams on guitar working with Pat Bianchi on the Hammond organ and Tyshawn Sorey on drums delivers a winner. “Hiccups?” I didn’t hear any.
The eight tune program features three Williams originals: a bluesy “201 Poplar” and a swinging “Euclid and Lamar,” while his “Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation Project” makes for some fine improvisation opportunities. The album opens with Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” a good indication of what’s to come. Added to these are a couple of pop pieces you wouldn’t expect on a jazz album “Galveston” and “Betcha By Golly Wow,” but work well Williams hands. There are two standards as well—a really dynamite arrangement of “Stairway to the Stars” and a solo guitar version of “More Than You Know.” This last could well have been extended.
Lamar is also available on CD and download at one extra mechanical remove from the vinyl.