Short Stories (Miles Music)

Gareth Williams

Released July 14, 2022

Jazzwise Top 20 Releases of 2022




A lot of thoughts leap to mind and emerge listening to these 12 tracks new from pianist Gareth Williams. Very well-known but more so perhaps 20 or 30 years ago in the UK modernistic mainstream world particularly in the early career of singer Claire Martin players of Gareth Williams’ generation who emerged in the 1990s often get forgotten about given new media’s interest (if at all) exclusively in new young acts or by complete contrast ancient mariners recently elevated or unfathomably not yet to the inevitable icon bracket. That’s a shame but happens not just only to Williams. It ain’t a conspiracy either. Williams sounds better than ever here and acts as a fine reminder of his considerable artistry. Sadly I have no tracks to share from the album itself so far.
The fiftysomething pianist-composer (born 1968) is with some even more senior players in the alternating presence of the hugely revered Keith Jarrett ”Belonging band” bass legend from Sweden Palle Danielsson (75) and the great English bassist Chris Laurence (73) known for his work with Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor. Before doing anything else take a moment to listen to Danielsson on the track ‘Country’ on My Song or his work with the much missed Tomasz Stańko on the classic 1997 album Litania.

On ‘Country’ that throb of bass rises up like a new dawning after the cruel darkness of night. And you get something profound here too on Short Stories because Danielsson and Laurence’s two approaches are utterly compatible and a joy at the centre of this record feeding off Williams so well. So if you are a fan of the double bass then this album is certainly a treat given their complementary work. Completing the sound is fine fiftysomething man of Kent English drummer Martin France known for his work in recent years with Spin Marvel and Krononaut. Younger players like the brilliant Jon Scott (the new drummer in GoGo Penguin) owe a lot to France.
Gareth Williams writes: This project came from a desire to encapsulate the many facets of music that I love. Improvisation is at the centre and jazz is the genre but I wanted to embody aspects that aren’t always to the fore in the jazz idiom. There are moments of explosive swing and bravado but also compositions that evoke melancholy and introspection. The chance to record with an idol of mine, Palle Daniellson, provided the impetus to compose music that could explore intuitive, reactive playing. At this, he is a master. Martin France is the ultimate in responsiveness and creativity.

This is not avant-garde music (indeed there are some jazz standards and even a vocal track!) but neither is it slavishly adherent to any one tradition or movement. I hope that it is joyful, as well as thought-provoking.
The Williams originals have a grandeur to them that isn’t at all pompous. They are just thought-provoking and often very poignant. On ‘For Palle’ the bass line draws out the bittersweetness in the melody and amplifies the hints that arise in other contexts. I suppose Williams must have been influenced by John Taylor along the way and sometimes say on his fine soloing again on ‘For Palle’ that comes through in its florid at times oblique fecundity. Perhaps there is a little of Cedar Walton in his sound as well. The title track, a singular ‘Short Story’ and certainly a singular trip of the imagination is provided towards the end. Williams sings on ‘Too Young To Go Steady’ and the Mark Murphy-like quality of his voice is a surprise if you don’t already know his fine vocal facility. So many reasons then to get this record. You will simply hate yourself if you don’t. (

Track Listing:

1. Not Bossa 07:20

2. Unwritten Hymn 05:14

3. Derivatives 05:19

4. Mr JT0 6:12

5. Who Can I Turn To? (Solo Piano) 03:36

6. Buster Keaton 05:42

7. Islands of Men 04:41

8. Another Waltz 07:01

9. One More Blues 04:10

10. For Palle 07:04

11. Short Story 06:49

12. Too Young to Go Steady (Solo Piano & Vocal) 03:53


Gareth Williams: vocals (12), piano
Martin France: drums (1-4, 6-11)
Palle Danielsson: double bass (1, 4, 6, 10)
Chris Laurence: double bass (2,3, 7-9, 11)
Conor Chaplin: bass


In live performance, pianist Gareth Williams seldom fails to impress. Rather like the series of famous exchanges in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are these guys?”, when Williams solos live it usually prompts a ripple of, “Who is that guy?” among the audience, the expectation being that some big famous American name has somehow slipped in unannounced. Naturally modest and unassuming, Williams has surprised and delighted audiences the length and breadth of the UK. But there has aways been a gulf between the lasting impression he creates in live performance and his recorded work, until now. In what must surely be his magnum opus, Short Stories covers a lot of ground in terms of material, but what impresses most is the album’s clear statement of an artist who has reached artistic maturity. Influences, or the gateways all players must go through to reach a deeper understanding of their art, are now reconciled within a personal style: for example, Tyner/Coltrane patterns might briefly surface, elegantly-voiced rootless Bill Evans chords, smart Herbie Hancock voicings, but they are now in service of a broader personal conception, and become a means to an end, rather the end itself – demonstrated perfectly on ‘Derivatives.’ Bassist Palle Danielson appears on four selections, ‘Not Bossa,’ ‘Mr JT,’ ‘Buster Keaton’ and ‘For Palle’, while the ever eloquent UK bass maestro Chris Laurence is on the remaining eight selections, ‘Unwritten Hymn,’ ‘Islands of Men’ and ‘Short Story’ emerge among the most rewarding tracks of a very rewarding album.

Stuart Nicholson (Jazzwise)