Ben Williams’s second full length album, “Coming of Age,” was released in 2015 to pretty remarkable reviews from various jazz critics. Williams infuses elements of R&B/neo-soul, fusion, post-bop, funk, and hip-hop into his innovative compositions. His backing band on this album are his main collaborators, known as Sound Effect. This ensemble includes guitarist Matthew Stevens, drummer John Davis, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, keyboardist Christian Sands, and Fender Rhodes keyboardist Masayuki “Big Yuki” Hirano. The record also includes the guest artists vocalist Goapele, and New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott. Some musical artists that are similar to Ben Williams are Weather Report, Robert Glasper Experiment, The Bad Plus, Jazzmeia Horn, and Miles Davis.
A few of my favorite tracks of this album would have to be “Voice of Freedom (For Mandela) [feat. Goapele],” “Lost & Found (feat. Christian Scott),” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and the title track “Coming of Age.” The 31-year old Washington D.C. upright bass player, Ben Williams, sheds a new prominent voice in the rising jazz scene on his phenomenal sophomore record. His name can easily be confused with the classic saxophone player Ben Webster, who surely inspired some of Williams’s compositions along with Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Christian McBride, and Roy Hargrove.
I would give this album an 8 1/2 out of 10 rating for Williams’s extremely creative compositions and his virtuosic bass playing. The album carries jazz forward with a new element of freshness and vibrant timbres. If you want to listen to a solid, hip jazz record from the past few years, then give this album a spin. Thanks so much to all my readers!
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