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Richard Williams: New Horn in Town


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A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Red Garland's sole recording session with Oliver Nelson in March 1961. The trumpeter on the date was Richard Williams, who many readers admired but knew little about. Curiously, Williams recorded only one leadership date—for Nat Hentoff's short-lived Candid label. It's called New Horn in Town and featured Leo Wright on alto sax and flute, Richard Wyands on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Bobby Thomas on drums.

New Horn in Town was recorded in November 1960 and gave Williams a chance to stand out, an opportunity he parlayed into a fine recording. Williams was born in Galveston, Texas, and began recording with Charles Mingus in 1959 on Mingus Dynasty. He appeared next on Carmen McRae's spectacular Something to Swing About Session in 1959 that featured an Ernie Wilkins-led big band. The band's trumpet section included Art Farmer, Jimmy Maxwell and Ernie Royal.

Williams recorded on small-group dates next with John Handy (In the Vernacular for Roulette in 1959) and a Gigi Gryce Quintet session in early 1960 before recording on an Ernie Wilkins' big band date for Everest in 1960. Next came another pair of small-group recordings with Slide Hampton (Sister Salvation for Atlantic) and behind vocalist Don Tranks (Atlantic).

The year 1960 remained ferociously busy for Williams on the recording front. There were more dates with Gryce, Wilkins, Handy, Hampton and Mingus as well as sessions behind Ruth Brown, Leo Wright, Oliver Nelson, Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis, Yusef Lateef and Randy Weston.

Then came New Horn in Town. Williams here hard bop chops and blew in a low-key blistering fashion, akin to a pocket Freddie Hubbard. His improvisational lines were mature in 1960, though he tended to pull a bit unsure in tight places.

Among the best tracks on New Horn in Town are Richard Wyands' Ferris Wheel and Williams' own Raucous Notes, Blues in a Quandry and Renita's Bounce—all of which have a sweet-and-sour Horace Silver Quintet flavor. The standards here—I Can Dream Can't I?, I Remember Clifford and Over the Rainbow—also receive Williams' low-flame blow-torch technique.

Pay particularly close attention to drummer Thomas, who is tasteful at every turn, as well as Wright on flute. And Wyands shines as an accompanist, particularly on ballads such as Over the Rainbow.

Williams went on to record frequently in the '60s and '70s as a sideman and as a Broadway pit trumpeter, dying in 1985. Why he recorded only one leadership date remains a mystery. The answer may be that he was simply more comfortable in a supporting role than having the pressure of writing material, assembling groups and working out arrangements.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Richard Williams' New Horn in Town as a download at Amazon here.

JazzWax clip: Here's Richard Williams playing Over the Rainbow from New Horn in Town...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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