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Buster Williams!

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by JohnBarr, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    I picked up Benny Golson's Terminal 1 CD and admired Buster Williams work. Great stuff.
    Then I realized I have him on a number of CDs, with folks like Charles Lloyd, Dexter Gordon.
    And just realilzed he has a number of CDs as a leader, including one with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

    Maybe someone can summarize his style better than I can and weigh in with some belated praise.

  2. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    Buster is the man! Definitely one of the all-time greats. He swings hard, he's very versatile, plays really creative walking lines, incredible rhythmic player. In a way, his soloing reminds me of Dave Holland because he plays a lot of outside solos but then sometimes he surprises you with all this beautiful bebop stuff that seems to come out of nowhere.
    A lot of people don't like his sound or the fact that he slides around a lot, but those things let you know immediately that it's Buster Williams. Also that stuff doesn't seem to bother Herbie Hancock or Kenny Barron or Dexter Gordon or Woody Shaw or the other million people that have him on their records. Check out Buster on "Outback" by Joe Farrell.
  3. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    One thing that some might consider to obvious in his playing to mention is all the slides he puts in. Especially when he plays octaves and moves them around. I love that. It's such a cool sound that I don't think many players take advantage of. Then again, I have tried to, and its really hard to put it in the right place...so maybe that's why not many people use it. Anyway, glad that Buster is getting some airtime in others music players.
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I haven't heard him, but I read a (lengthy) interview with him in JazzImprov a while ago. Smart man, and he's got some great stories to tell. Dig the one about getting stranded in Chicago when he was playing with Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt!
  5. bassame


    Mar 25, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    I have seen him several times at the Vanguard, with his own band, and supporting others. His lines are very tasteful and sensitive, the type of note choices that change the chord the band is playing in a gentle manner. His solo's are very original - he seems to think outside the bebop idiom, playing completely unexpected riffs and melodies that fascinate me.

    He has a very trebly tone, and he seems to have his Polytone turned up quite a bit, and to play very gently and precisely at this high volume setting to get a normal, quite audible sound. This, I think, makes it possible for him to do some of the amazing riffs he does.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'd have to disagree. I heard him with SPHERE at the Vanguard a few years back and he was having some problems with his amp; it kept cutting off. As a result there were times that he was playing acoustically, his sound didn't change at all.
  7. bassame


    Mar 25, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    How then, did you know when he was playing acoustically?
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Other than a slight drop in volume? Mostly cause the light on his amp kept sputtering and the volume would decrease to the acoustic bass sound in conjunction with the flickering of the light; when the light would flicker and the sound would decrease Buster would turn around and look at his amp; sometimes stopping playing to turn the amp off and on again. When it finally did it in the middle of a bass solo, he just left it off for the rest of the tune.

    And the drop in volume was really only slight and the sound quality of his bass was remarkably consistent whether amped or not amped.

    I also got to hear his bass at Dave Gage's (and got to talk to Buster a little bit); it wasn't going through an amp then, but I've been listening to Buster for at least 30 years (live and on records) and his acoustic sound is just like what I hear when I hear him in a club.

    Happy now?
  9. bassame


    Mar 25, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    :p :p :p
  10. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Not that it's needed, but I can add that I had the same experience. I'd always thought when I was very young that Buster's sound came from his amp and pickup. So the first time I heard him play right in front of me, with no amp whatsoever, it came as a big suprise that his acoustic sound was exactly the same. I also remember liking the way he left the ends of his strings sticking out of the pegbox, waving like so much spaghetti....

    He's also a first-rate storyteller. If you ever get the chance, his story about how he got his bass is great to listen to.

    To hear something interesting, it's worth listening to his playing on "Sassy Swings the Tivoli." He's credited as Charles Williams. I Could Write a Book is one of the swingingest tracks around. He's just about pulling the bass apart, and Sarah just dances on top of the bass line. Anyway, his playing on that record is completely different from the way he plays now (and for the last 20-30 years) and the contrast is really something. Both styles are great, but sooo different.

  11. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    I think Buster is one of those guys you id after hearing a couple of notes - such a distinctive tone & rhythmic concept. And what about those slides! There's a couple of great Dexter Gordon albums (Tower of Power & More Power) which aptly demonstrate how close his acoustic & amplified sound are. Carmen McRae's New York State of Mind album is a cracker as well, as is Crystal Reflections (solo album) which has a neat I Love You with Buster overdubbed soloing on top of his walking lines. :cool:
  12. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    Following up here a bit.
    I picked up a copy of a Buster Williams CD that may be a hidden gem.

    His 1989 release titled Something More. The lineup includes Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Al Foster and a trumpet player named Shunzo Ohno.

    5 of the 7 compositions are Williams. Most of them in mid to moderate tempos. And mosltly in a kind of mellow post-bop, straight ahead vein.

    The notes indicate that Buster is using a somewhat unusual, bass, large, deep bodied. The tone is dark and rich. There are solos but they are not the focus. If someone played this and then told you the line up, you'd have a tough time guessing the headliner. In a sense I think the CD is about Williams' compositions and less about him as a player.

    Anyhow, this may be one to add to your wish list before it disappears. I suspect it has passed largely unnoticed.

  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    If anybody's interested, he gets the cover and a long feature article/interview in the Summer 2005 edition of Double Bassist magazine! :)


    Aug 26, 2005
    I respect Buster, as a man and an artist. I love his solos, his attack, his entire presentation. His tongue-in-cheek humor and his compositions. He is one of the last of the second generation of modern jazz pioneers. He is a "great" musician.

    I've heard him live and on records. He currently plays a large (for Buster, who is a short chap) Hawkes-Panormo double bass, fitted with LaBella 7710 strings. Beauty to behold, visually and aurally. Gets the natural gut sound by using the LaBellas without sacrificing speed.

    This having been said, in my experience there IS a huge difference in his amplified and his acoustic sound, though less noticeable in recordings than in live performance. I sat in on a rhythm-section master class he delivered with Lenny White two years ago and the Hawkes sounded georgeous unamplified-- frickin' deadly. That night I watched him go onstage for his part of the show, plug the bass in, and it sounded totally tinny and weak. Really ****ty. I don't know what he had on the bass, but it looked to me like one of those cheap old Underwood pick-ups, but I really could not tell. Whatever it is/was, it detracted from the natural sound of his bass. I call this the late-1960's through 1980s neo-bop amplified bass sound. They all sounded tinny and ****ty then since they didn't have the sophisticated pickups that are available today. It created a certain sound, the "amplified upright," sound. When of course the goal has always been to increase the volume without changing the natural tone of the instrument. There are now available on the market systems that will do precisely that-- such as the Gage pick-up, and I dearly wish Buster would get one....
  15. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Just saw Buster coming into the New School building. He has a really tiny bass wheel, it's very funny! Anyway, I'm posting to tell you all about Tonight's show at 55 West 13th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue - 5th floor. $10 - Buster Williams Quintet. Come down! Hope to see you there

  16. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Love that big sound Buster gets on the Hawkes, like a Juzek on steriods! I first saw him with the Ron Carter piccolo bass quartet, kind of a disappointment in general, but loved Buster's sound and was in awe of RC anyway. It was a kick meeting Ron at ISB this year. It's good to see Buster still out there doin' it.

  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    More blame may lie on the amp, if he was using the amp du jour on tour. Like I said up, sitting in the Village Vanguard the only difference in the amp sound and the acoustic sound was a slightly higher volume.


    Aug 26, 2005

    Yeah, sure...could be the amp. Whatever caused that thang to lose its bottom and sound tinny, I don't like it.
  19. 33degrees


    Jun 4, 2005
    hi, ive been allowed back again after my shameful ban for a wekk, has it been that long already? :(
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Hey 33, glad you're back...some scary s*** going on over there.

    The only time I saw Buster, he was indeed using an Underwood. He had the expected sound, all slippery-slidey and nasal. This was a long time ago. I've always wanted to hear him by himself, just the bass unamped.