Shock! - Gareth Williams Power Trio - Vortex

Pianist Gareth Williams, electric bassist Laurence Cottle and drummer Ian Thomas are not, as Williams points out in his liner notes, the conventional jazz power trio (Power Tools, say, or Power of Three), but are aptly named for what he calls their 'extraordinary weightlifting capabilities' and - more important - their ability to 'play music from the heart. Power equates to inner conviction.'

As he also asserts, Williams's band have no 'side' to them, so they don't take standards and funk them up or otherwise use them as chops-displaying vehicles; rather, they address the thirteen pieces on Shock! (all but one - a hard-hitting but tasteful 'Giant Steps' - by Williams) with respect and care.

This said, the title track does draw on rock power-trio effects (most obviously the sort of riffs employed by the likes of Cream or Led Zeppelin) to pack its considerable punch within what Williams identifies as 'the infectious grooves of James Brown', and the pianist's odd forays into the soundworld associated with electronic keyboards leaven the mix effectively.

Williams is an intense, exciting - occasionally downright tumultuous - pianist, his solos teeming with ideas jostling for attention, and in Cottle he has the perfect bass foil, at once nimble (his dynamic control faultless) and punchy, so even in the acoustic-piano tracks the string bass is never missed, and in Thomas he has found a similarly gifted, bustling yet subtle collaborator.

Overall, a pleasingly varied (Williams plausibly namechecks everyone from bluesman Freddie King and Thin Lizzy to Bill Evans and Gustav Mahler in his notes) but consistently powerful (there's that word again) album from a fiercely but sensitively interactive trio.

16 February 2009