Jazz Great Williams Busts Out His Talent
Legendary jazz bassist Buster Williams and his “Something More” quartet made a spectacular impression on Oberlin Wednesday. Giving a two-hour, in-depth master class in the afternoon and a stunning concert in the evening at Finney Chapel, the group displayed jazz education at its finest — working with students to help their musicality and then demonstrating their ideas in a spectacular concert.
Upon arrival at the Cat in the Cream, Williams’s first statement to the eager students was “You all are going to entertain us today.” Jazz Studies majors performed and the band offered feedback.
“Listening is ninety percent of it,” drummer E.J. Strickland said about performing music.
The group never strayed far from stressing the importance of interaction in jazz, indicating that music is a collective project, not an individual one.
The concert was fun, hard swinging, melodious and interesting, and the four musicians demonstrated their earlier statements. With the very first beat they played, their presence was strong and the enthusiastic audience knew they were in for something special.
As so much of today’s music is based solely around a dance beat or worse, it was refreshing to hear musicians who were able to make every note they played meaningful. Students were practically dancing in their seats to the funky, hard-swinging tunes, reacting with laughs and yells at the highly dramatic storytelling taking place on stage.
Williams, one of the most accomplished bassists alive, had a way of making the chord changes do as he wished. Most people struggle with chords, treating them as confining and restrictive, but Williams was solid while flirting with the changes, making them jump for him instead of having to jump.
Standing out was front man Stefon Harris, an accomplished vibraphonist with two Grammy nominations already under his belt. His speeches during the master class describing music as communication — a universal language — came out with his fluently melodic soloing. He sang along with nearly every note he played, giving voice to his instrument and showing that he meant every note he struck.
The ballads the quartet played were met with the same intensity, if not more, as the faster and more upbeat tunes. The passion that went into their slower tempos was astounding. They drifted with ease over melodies that seemed to speak words.
At the end of the show, the well-deserved applause lasted minutes on end. To see this group, and in top form, was magnificent and heart-warming.
“Something More” is not the only famous jazz band slated to visit campus this spring. This Friday, April 27, world renowned jazz saxophonist and Cleveland native Joe Lovano will be performing and hosting a master class from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Cat in the Cream. The following Friday, May 4, jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller is returning for the second time in two years to give a master class, also from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Cat in the Cream. Both of these workshops are free and open to the public.