Kate Williams – Four Plus Three

four plus three(kwjazz)

The Three are pianist Kate Williams, double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer David Ingamells; the Four are violinists John Garner and Marie Schreer, viola player Miguel Rodriguez and cellist Sergio Serra, better known as the Guastalla String Quartet.

So, a piano trio album with strings, you’re thinking? Oh no, as Williams would be quick to correct you. Her arrangements – of mainly her own compositions but also of jazz standards – intertwine the Three and Four in creative and often innovatively different ways, not only from track to track but even within individual pieces. And there’s not a cliché to be heard.

So, on the opener, Love For Sale, we first get the strings alone behaving just as a string quartet might, then as cushioning support for double bass, then the trio takes over, then the strings come in with such attack I thought for an instant a horn section had been magicked up. Jobim’s Portrait In Black And White gets the most sinuous of treatments, while Williams’ Eleven Tonal has a stern edge in amongst the swing.

The two Bill Evans songs – B Minor Waltz and Walkin’ Up – are exquisitely realised, and strongly contrasting too, the former, which Williams leaves entirely to the bass and strings, as lyrical and luxuriating in its light melancholy as a Spring rain shower, the latter a feature for the plucked strings both in front of brushed drums and behind the piano solo. Big Shoes has some great interplay between low piano and high strings, and the leader’s solos are a joy throughout, so well constructed yet so naturally felt. Twilight’s Last Blink has a marvellously atmospheric, and quite dramatic, ending.

An album full of delights.

  • This CD isn’t released till next month, with a launch at the 606 Club in London on 8 June, but lucky Birmingham gets a chance to hear the band play it live before then. Kate Williams’ Four Plus Three is at the Birmingham Jazz Legends Festival, playing in The Red Lion at 5pm on Saturday. There might even be advance copies to buy. More HERE.

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