REVIEW: Huw V Williams 'Hon' at The Salisbury

Laura Jurd playing in Huw V Willams' 'Hon'
The Salisbury, Nov 2014
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Huw V Williams 'Hon'
(Jazz at The Salisbury, Green Lanes. 2nd November 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Five bright jazz sparks to light up a quiet Sunday night in north London - what could be better? Huw V Williams has pulled together an impressive quintet of rising stars to perform his compositions under the umbrella of Hon, which translates as 'this' in Welsh, and which is the platform for a set of compositions which relate to his own Welsh background, sometimes intimately about his own family, and others which take cues from the poetry of Wales. From an opening improvisation to a string of sensitively articulated pieces over two sets, the quintet strode out and gave it their all for a tiny but greatly appreciative audience at The Salisbury.

Williams, a winner of the 2012 Yamaha Scholars Prize, is already a sought after bassist, and has played with the likes of Jim Black, Jason Rebello and Huw Warren. Committed to the cause of jazz and creative music, there is a strong intelligence present in his writing which, to position it, skirts the John Hollenbeck territory, spicing carefully layered themes with tricksy changes of pace.

In one number he paid rigorously direct homage to Ornette's approach to composition, with something of the challenging spirit of Moppa Elliot's band, Mostly Other People do the Killing. His confidence in maintaining the melodic and the rhythmic backbone in tandem with brightly versatile drummer Jay Davis, and his ability to lift and direct his group, demonstrated how this self-effacing player is effectively marshalling his talents.

The quintet responded with verve to the textured nuances of Williams's pieces. Laura Jurd's trumpet playing was hugely impressive in its range and complex voicings, bringing to mind Chet Baker's receding tones, Wadada Leo Smith's audacity and Kenny Wheeler's measured serenity in its variety, with the feeling that every note that she placed was a new discovery.

Alam Nathoo on tenor sax complemented Jurd's adventurous top line with his dynamic, expressive lyricism and elegant phrasing, and a palette that could turn effortlessly from blissy to deep and dense.

Like Hollenbeck in the Claudia Quintet, Williams employs the accordion in his line up for its atmospheric whines and wheezy bellows, menacing minor discords and dizzying keyboard rushes, with Elliot Galvin taking a break from the piano keys to add that instrument's unsettling extra dimension to the combo's voice.

The sophistication, maturity and application of this young collective shone through and it was ultimately the sum of the parts that made it work so well.

They are back in December at the Vortex  and well worth checking out.

Huw V Williams - double bass
Laura Jurd - trumpet
Alam Nathoo - tenor saxophone
Elliot Galvin - accordion
Jay Davis - drums

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