Heads of State – Four in One (Smoke Sessions)
The solidly satisfying Four in One is the collaborative group Heads of State’s second recording. Like their 2015 debut, Search for Peace, the current album combines mostly bop-based standards with original tunes. The single personnel change — David Williams replaces Buster Williams (no relation) on bass — hasn’t hampered the quartet’s seamless synergy nor the fluid facility of the musicians’ individual expression.
Williams and pianist Larry Willis begin the bassist’s composition “Keep the Master in Mind” with an intimate exchange of expansive, cascading keys and wistful arco lines. Saxophonist Gary Bartz adds clever twists and tender emotion to the melody. The rhythm section’s effervescent flourishes buoy his agile, muscular improvisation, which unfurls with effortless elegance. Williams concludes the number with a lyrical solo that crackles with sophisticated spontaneity.
Willis infuses “The Day You Said Goodbye,” his own composition, with warmth and richness, while Bartz’s heady, reverberating alto lends a nostalgic touch. Drummer Al Foster contributes soft, rustling brushes and Williams adds melancholic pizzicato. Together the four men build a vibrant, undulating ballad.
Williams endows Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” with a funky swagger, which is underlined by Foster’s earthy rumble. Bartz and Willis then proceed to deconstruct the infectious tune. The saxophonist blows with fiery abandon, as the pianist plays ardent circular phrases and resonant chords. Equally energetic is the ensemble’s take on Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch.” Willis demonstrates breathtaking dexterity and wit as he embellishes the piece with quotes from other sources, while Bartz extemporizes with swinging fervor.
Four in One breaks no new ground and doesn’t intend to. It simply presents an impressive and joyful snapshot of masters at work.
— Hrayr Attarian
For more information, go to http://smokesessionsrecords.com/