Two years ago, Ben Williams won the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition at the Kennedy Center in his hometown of Washington, D.C. Dee Dee Bridgewater knows, because she sang with Williams that night. Only months before, he'd earned his Masters at the Juilliard School of Music. As the winner, Ben Williams received $20,000, a recording contract with Concord Music Group and a future booking at the Kennedy Center. This installment of JazzSet — introducing Ben Williams and Sound Effect and the album State of Art -- comes from that spring 2011 booking.
Each player contributes with grace. Tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland plays on State of Art, while Williams plays on Strickland's latest, Triumph of the Heavy. They are a team. Pianist Christian Sands is playing his first official gig with Williams' band, Sound Effect; he's a great fit. Ben Williams introduces guitarist Matt Stevens from Toronto by saying, "You gotta have a Canadian in the band to keep the peace." Drummer Obed Calvaire is known to JazzSet listeners from the Clayton Brothers. In this concert, the band plays "The Moontrane" by Woody Shaw to a go-go beat, which leads to Williams' floating original, "November." As a web extra, the band un-does "Moonlight in Vermont," melting the snow in the lyric.
Guitarist Yotam Silberstein performed at the Kennedy Center with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, Janis Siegel and Dee Dee Bridgewater in the song-fest Ella! Silberstein shines on that episode of JazzSet, and the Kennedy Center wanted him back.
Originally from Tel Aviv, Silberstein won the national Jazz Player of the Year competition and came to the U.S. to study at the New School in New York. Our KC Jazz Club set shows off Silberstein's fast-moving solos and those of his boyhood friend, pianist Roy Assaf, in "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot, as well as Silberstein's guitar/voice combination in his "Nocturne." Silberstein's record producer, John Lee, plays bass; the Canadian drummer Greg Ritchie completes the foursome. They close this JazzSet with an original bossa nova, "McDavid."
Lately, Yotam Silberstein has been on the road and abroad with Jamaica-born piano great Monty Alexander. Silberstein's new album, Brazil, is just out from Jazz Legacy Productions.