Buster Williams: The Low End Maestro The low end has always been terra firma for Williams, one of the all-time great bassists in modern jazz. Hear highlights of a recent set with his post-bop ensemble, Something More.

Buster Williams performs at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Lawrence Sumulong /Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption
Lawrence Sumulong /Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center

Buster Williams performs at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

Lawrence Sumulong /Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center

Buster Williams: The Low End Maestro

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/528918610/528942262" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The low end has always been terra firma for Buster Williams, one of the all-time great bassists in modern jazz. A sideman with experience all over the map — supporting singers like Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, and anchoring bands like the Jazz Crusaders and Sphere — he's probably best known for his tenure with Mwandishi, the groundbreaking, unclassifiable early-1970s group led by pianist Herbie Hancock. But Williams also has a long track record as a bandleader, notably with a nimble post-bop ensemble he calls Something More.

Jazz Night in America caught a recent set by Buster Williams and Something More at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the in-house nightclub at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Featuring Steve Wilson on alto saxophone, George Colligan on piano and Lenny White on drums, the group struck a decisive balance between grounded and exploratory, holding fast to a deeply swinging pulse. In this program, you'll hear some highlights of the set, including a modal bruiser called "Where Giants Dwell" and a lyrical ballad, "Christina." (The tunes, all originals, also serve as a reminder of Williams' strong footing as a composer.)

But there's also a wealth of personal insight in this episode, which features a conversation between Williams and one of his younger bass brethren, Jazz Night host Christian McBride. (Williams tells McBride about how he got his first gig, at 17, with saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt.)

We'll also check in with filmmaker Adam Kahan, who's in the process of making a documentary about Williams and has discovered no shortage of colorful material in the process. Kahan shares some of his material with us, including perspective on Williams' early life in Camden, N.J., where his first bass teacher was his father. The documentary also provides us with some duo interplay between Williams and a few close musical partners: saxophonist Benny Golson, singer Carmen Lundy and pianist Larry Willis.

"The greatest thing that a musician can do is surprise him- or herself," Williams says. "'Where did that come from?' You don't know how it came about, but you hope it comes again. You keep exploring, and through this exploration you find new answers, create new problems, you find that your whole perception of yourself changes — and the world broadens. You define yourself not by limitations but by possibilities."

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Dennis Manuel/Courtesy of the artist

Aww Yeah, Summertime — With The Robert Glasper Experiment

This special summer festival episode features a clever synthesis of hip-hop, R&B and soul, recorded live across two music festivals in New York City.

Aww Yeah, Summertime — With The Robert Glasper Experiment

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/542780066/542781768" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Bill Charlap and his mother, Sandy Stewart. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Sandy Stewart And Bill Charlap On Piano Jazz

Hear the cabaret singer and her pianist son bring a rare combination of swing and sophistication to a session with host Marian McPartland.

Sandy Stewart And Bill Charlap On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535960111/535960769" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Marian McPartland and Eddie Gomez in 1993. R.J. Capak/Piano Jazz Archives hide caption

toggle caption R.J. Capak/Piano Jazz Archives

Eddie Gomez On Piano Jazz

The Grammy-winning bassist's sense of swing shines through on this session with Marian McPartland, who joins in on "My Foolish Heart" and "All Of You."

Eddie Gomez On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/533993916/533995152" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Joshua Redman on saxophone, Scott Colley on bass, Brian Blade on drums and Ron Miles on cornet perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Still Dreaming: Joshua Redman's Tribute To A Tribute

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The saxophonist opens up about the legacy of his father, Dewey Redman, and performs with Still Dreaming — his own nod to the quartet his dad once helped convene as an homage to Ornette Coleman.

Terence Blanchard is the guest on this week's Piano Jazz. Henry Adebonojo/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Henry Adebonojo/Courtesy of the artist

Terence Blanchard On Piano Jazz

The Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer joins Marian McPartland to perform standards like "I Thought About You" with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi.

Terence Blanchard On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/530240350/530241963" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

T.S. Monk performs at the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz hide caption

toggle caption Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

T.S. Monk On Piano Jazz

The percussionist dedicated this 1995 set with host Marian McPartland to his father, Thelonious Monk.

T.S. Monk On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/528135123/528136364" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top