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Reviews: Buster Williams: Griot Liberte

Reviews: 4

Review by zomax July 22, 2004 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is a great release, and I'm surprised it's not getting more attention. A single inventory, regularly priced, hybrid & multichannel contemporary jazz album by a veteran player (you name 'em, Buster's played with 'em) with a backing group of 2 respected veterans (Colligan and White) and one rising star (Harris). What more could you want? Oh, did I mention that it's engineered, mixed, and mastered by Rudy Van Gelder? Well if that doesn't do it for you, how about this: no stupid sacd jewel case here, just a regular, black plastic, easy-access cd case.

AS for the music, there's two standards and the rest are Buster's compositions, which are very strong songs. As you might expect, Buster's bass playing is central, and this is a good thing: his playing exudes confidence, experience, emotion, and intelligence. The songs keep my attention, even with the vibes, which somehow my brain associates with elevator music. Allmusic says there's a similarity here to MJQ, but apart from the one Cole Porter standard and the similarity of the instrumentation, I don't see it. These songs are more adventurous and warm. My favorites are Nomad, The Triumphant Dance of the Butterfly, Joined at the Hip, and Concierto de Aranjuez.

Sonically, the only other jazz sacds in my collection (about 10 now) that compares is Bill Evans LIve at the Village Vanguard (minus the clinks of silverware, of course) and Chick Corea's live disc. The vibes are clear as a bell, and White's ride cymbal rings true too. Colligan's contribution is mostly supporting, but his solos are also strong (though not as sharp sounding as Harris's vibes). And, of course, Buster's bass sounds wonderfull--deep, resonant with a great tone. It's not always in the foreground, but most of the time it is and I don't mind one bit. My main speakers are no monsters in the bass department, but they go down to 50hz and I don't feel I'm missing much below that.

Here I guess I should mention that this is a 5.0 (no sub) mix, and I should also probably explain that the surround mix is the reason why I didn't give this album 5 stars sonically. Whereas on another 5.0 contemporary jazz recording (see my review for Vijay Iyer's Bloodsutra), I felt that the bass somehow got lost in the surround mix, here Buster's bass is mostly in the front l&r speakers. No complaints there. As for the other instruments, sometimes they are coming from the rear speakers, sometimes from the front and center. Sometimes Harris will be coming from the center, others songs from the surrounds. Colligan is mostly in the surrounds. On one song I swear White's cymbals are coming from the rear while the snare drum is coming from the center! There are some nice touches though--White's rim shots in one song echoing from front to rear, for instance. I think if your speakers were set-up less for movies (surrounds behind the listening position) and more for music with the surrounds in front of you but placed for a very wide sound-stage, this mix would make more sense. I still enjoy listening to the surround mix because there is more separation between the instruments (to my mind it makes me feel more like I'm listening to the players live where my brain has to process each part individually and then put it together as a whole--whereas with most recordings, my brain is confronted with the whole package first and then has to really focus to break it down to the individual parts). At the least this mix makes you sit up and pay attention to what's going on--on the other hand some may find it distracting.

Overall though, highly recommended!

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Review by JW September 4, 2004 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
(Griot Liberté - Someone forgot to use the accent d'aigu on the booklet's front cover, instead opting for the accent grave. Sloppy - though on the back they got it right).

Stephen emailed me and said 'you got to try this disc', so I obeyed dutifully and ordered the disc. Thank you, master :-)

AMG says about Buster Williams: "One of jazz's most valuable sidemen, Buster Williams has been able to flourish through many periods of changing fashions in jazz. Best known since the 1980s for his solid, dark tone and highly refined technique on the acoustic bass, the jazz-rock generation knew him as the mobile anchor of Herbie Hancock's exploratory "Mwandishi" Sextet from 1969 to 1973, doubling on acoustic and electric basses sometimes attached to electronic effects devices. Williams learned both the double bass and the drums from his father, but having been enormously impressed by Oscar Pettiford's recordings, he ultimately decided to concentrate on the bass".

Exacty what I thought I heard. Oscar Pettiford. HA! Try also 'OP' by Tony Overwater - I reviewed it on these pages. These guys all sounds alike. And that is not a bad thing at all. This SA-CD swings hard. And as opposed to my master here, I think Vibes and Marimba are fine instruments that have nothing to do with elevator music. But perhaps its just that the elevator music in California is different than down under :-)

This is modern jazz with a traditionalists sensitivity and melody. There is much to be enjoyed here, with a lot of variation and interesting rhythmic patterns. It never gets messy nor does it lean towards so-called free jazz. George Colligan on piano has this incredible swing that keeps you finger snapping. Yes, this one is a keeper!

The double bass has weight and you can hear the vibrato/reverb and the power of a large wooden string instrument manipulated by the bow. It's audiophile heaven. The piano is indeed clear as a bell, same as those vibes. Nice wide soundstage as well.


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Review by DeSelby May 9, 2005 (1 of 4 found this review helpful)
stereo sonics: top sound

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Review by jimmyjames8 May 26, 2005 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Found this one totally by accident at Borders, SACD in the regular jazz bins. Buster has been a session bass player since 1959. This was done last year (2004) at Rudy Van Gelder's (who has been recording bass players since the early 50's). Also features Lenny White who was beating the skins for Return to Forever back in the 70's. This SACD is a sonic assault of bass, drums, vibes and piano. Lots of gain here. Think Gary Burton meets Ray Brown. Tons of walking bass lines, vibe runs and fills, punctuated by piano and drums. Buster is the frontman. Plenty of deep bass to to make things vibrate in your house. Can be a little thick and plodding at times but a great sonic delight in high resolution sound. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be MCH as well but I didn't check that out.

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