Featuring Kat Williams

Featuring Kat Williams
1. “St. Louis Blues” (11:39)
by W. C. Handy; arr. by Chad Eby; Brandon
Chapman (lead trpt.), Josh Belvin (trpt.),
Kat Williams (vocal), Justin W. Powell (pno.),
Brian Gluf (t. sax), Andrew Broome (guit.),
Steven Foster (t. sax), Luis Diaz (guit.)
2. “Greensleeves” (6:14)
arr. by Stephen R. Anderson; Martin Baker
(t. sax), Rebecca Lautier (guit.)
3. “Ms. B.C.” (for Betty Carter) (4:08)
by Pamela Baskin Watson; arr. by Robert
(“Bobby”) Watson; Justin W. Powell (pno.),
Rebecca Lautier (guit.)
4. ”Search For Peace” (6:46)
by McCoy Tyner; arr. by Alan Baylock;
Kevin Kimbrough (trb.), Justin W. Powell (pno.),
Luis Diaz (guit.)
5. “Infant Eyes” (4:26)
by Wayne Shorter; arr. by Chad Eby; Justin W.
Powell (pno.), Martin Baker (t. sax)
6. “500 Miles High” (5:55)
by Chick Corea; arr. by Neil Slater; Daniel
Iannucci (bass), Ryan Hudson (pno.), Martin
Baker (t. sax)
7. “Let’s Fall In Love” (2:38)
by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen; arr. by
Rusty Dedrick; Kat Williams (vocal)
8. “’S Wonderful|” (3:05)
by George and Ira Gershwin; arr. by
Dave Wolpe; Kat Williams (vocal)
9. “Almost Like Being In Love” (2:57)
by Alan J. Lerner/Fredrick Loewe; arr. by
Lennie Niehaus; Kat Williams (vocal),
Kevin Kimbrough (trb.), Josh Belvin (trpt.)
10. “All of Me” (6:25)
by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks; arr.
by Lennie Niehaus; Justin W. Powell (pno.),
Kat Williams (vocal), Ryan Cameron (a. sax),
Brandon Chapman (trpt.), Kat Williams (scat),
Steven Foster (t. sax)
11. “Mu” (5:55)
by Sean Smith; WCU Jazz Combo: Sean Smith
(trpt.), Jonathan Churchill (a. sax),
Pavel Wlosok (pno.), Wells Gordon (bass),
Randall Harris (drums)
The first track of this WCU Jazz Ensemble
recording pays homage to one of the most
famous blues compositions ever to come out
of the American jazz repertoire—the “St. Louis
Blues.” In this powerful opener the musicians
are called upon to fluctuate between performing bold bursts of full-blown harmonies and
bare-bones melody/bass lines that accompany
the featured vocalist, Kat Williams. Everything
is tied together by a deliberately slow, plodding
tempo, which both establishes and maintains
this effective rendition of the blues in its most
fundamental nature.
At first hearing it becomes apparent that this
band has a solid rhythm section. The tasteful
cohesiveness of the horn sections—boldly led
by Brandon Chapman on trumpet—coupled
with masterful solos by Justin W. Powell
(piano), Brian Gluf (tenor sax), and Luis Diaz
(guitar), provide an ideal setting for Kat Williams as she belts out the blues.
Pavel Wlosok, director of the WCU Jazz Ensemble, chose music from a variety of sources
to showcase this group of college students. Although several of the musical sources are from
the popular, well-established American songbook (even an arrangement of the sixteenthcentury folk tune “Greensleeves” is included
here), other arrangements are drawn from a
broad variety of original jazz compositions.
Several of Wlosok’s choices for this recording
offer special significance to the students of jazz
history, past and present. For example, three of
the arrangers of music on this recording have
connections to the University of North Texas
School of Music. Neil Slater, arranger of “500
Miles High,” directed the “One O’Clock” band
at UNT for over two decades; Stephen Anderson, Chad Eby, and Pavel Wlosok are all former
products of UNT’s famous jazz program.
Stephen Anderson’s very original setting of
“Greensleeves” brings the centuries-old tune
into the modern jazz arena by using phrases
and fragments of the melody set to novel
splashes of instrumental color. Its opening—
in which the sax doubles the guitar on the
melody—soon gives way to solos that stray
from the tune but that nonetheless retain
references to the ancient English folk song.
The beautifully abstract tenor sax solo (Martin
Baker), followed by the complementary guitar
solo by Rebecca Lautier both take us into new
realms of listening and capture our attention
while we await the inevitable return of the old
melody. All these inventive musical ideas are
strongly supported by the rhythm section as the
WCU Jazz Ensemble performs this intriguingly
complex, cohesive arrangement.
“Ms. B.C.” is an original composition by Pamela
Baskin Watson (arranged by Robert “Bobby”
Watson) that pays tribute to Betty Carter,
one of the most influential jazz singers of the
twentieth century. Carter’s approach to jazz was
often experimental; she frequently incorporated
leading-edge instrumental jazz idioms in her
singing. (When she was only sixteen years old,
she sang with Charlie Parker. She later performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, and
Miles Davis.) Betty Carter served as a source of
inspiration for several generations of jazz musi-
cians and was active, until her death in 1998, in
the Jazz Ahead program, which she developed
to support young jazz musicians in New York
City. The WCU Jazz Ensemble originally performed this work in 2005 with the well-known
saxophonist Bobby Watson—and arranger of this
work—as the guest artist. Bobby Watson is married to the composer/pianist/conductor Pamela
Baskin Watson.
“Search For Peace” presents an interesting manipulation of motion. Although the basic ballad
tempo is persistent throughout the arrangement—and supports inventive and captivating
solos by trombonist Kevin Kimbrough and guitarist Luis Diaz—the middle section becomes agitated when the subdivision of the beat doubles.
The original feel of the ballad returns when the
lyrical lines of the melody are overlaid against
the faster rhythmic accompaniment. This piece
was first introduced to WCU by the trombonist
(and UNT alum) Conrad Herwig, guest artist in
the 2002 jazz festival.
The WCU Jazz Ensemble’s performance of
Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes” features the
tenor saxophone (played by Martin Baker).
This composition combines the lyricism of a
ballad set over a changing texture of complex
harmonic structures and fascinating chord
changes. A saxophonist and composer, Wayne
Shorter was connected with many of the major
forces in twentieth-century jazz, such as Art
Blakey, Maynard Ferguson, Herbie Hancock,
Freddie Hubbard, and Miles Davis. The arranger
Chad Eby (who also wrote the arrangement of
the “St. Louis Blues” heard on this recording)
is professor of jazz saxophone at UNC–Greensboro. Eby’s arrangement changes its original 4/4
meter to a 3/4 waltz.
Chick Corea’s “500 Miles High,” performed here
in an arrangement by Neal Slater, was written
in 1972 at a turning point in Corea’s creative
life. Although this work is basically Latin in
temperament, it came upon the musical scene
at the time when Chick Corea was venturing
into a somewhat controversial new movement
in music known as fusion. This arrangement
emphasizes the polarity of treble and bass—supported, of course, by well-balanced tutti horn
sectionals. Neil Slater’s sophisticated writing
for the rhythm section displays not only the
brilliance of the bass soloist, Dan Iannucci,
but provides a backdrop for Martin Baker’s
tenor sax solo.
Kat Williams is featured on the following set
of four standards: “Let’s Fall in Love,”
“’S Wonderful,” “Almost Like Being in Love,”
and “All of Me.” The rhythmic and melodic
nuances of her performance are in perfect
congruity with the settings of these memorable
tunes. Williams brings a fresh vigor and depth to
the modern musical jazz scene with a vocal style
made famous by the great “First Lady of Song,”
Ella Fitzgerald.
For example, listen carefully to Kat’s vocal inflections on “Almost Like Being in Love.” The tone
quality of her voice is pure and consistent; the
fundamentally straight sound is embellished
from time to time—especially at phrase endings—by a tasteful hint of vibrato. Of course, her
intonation is impeccable. (Speaking of pitch accuracy, notice also the solid sound of the band,
which is based on flawless intonation.)
performances not often found on recordings
by university bands. The WCU students, who
represent a wide variety of backgrounds and
personal musical traditions, come together here
not only to form a cohesive big band sound but
to demonstrate well-developed solo improvisation skills. The guest artist, Kat Williams, fits
perfectly into this model of music making; her
remarkable natural talent is now shaped and
tempered by her performing experience and
knowledge of her genre. To be sure, her style
(like that of the WCU Jazz ensemble) is music of
the mind, but it is much more than that—it is
music of the soul.
The final track of this recording departs from
the big band setting and turns to a jazz combo
format for a performance of an original composition by Sean Smith, a former WCU trumpet
student who studied composition with Pavel
Wlosok and is also featured on this tune. In
“Mu,” Smith skirts tradition by creating melodic
structures and harmonic progressions that are
continually new to the ear but that still maintain
a feeling of musical logic. Professor Wlosok
plays piano on this track in honor of his former
student. It is only fitting that we hear at least
a snippet of Wlosok’s performing abilities on
this recording. His appearance is a sort of dessert
for us and underlines his role as the conductor,
the teacher, and even the sound engineer of
this group.
The WCU Jazz Ensemble Featuring Kat Williams presents a rare combination of great
music, masterful arrangements, and stellar
Members of the WCU Jazz Ensembles enjoy
performing not only with each other but with
such guest artists as Conrad Herwig, Gary
Smulyan, Bobby Watson, Tyler Kuebler, John
Riley, Ed Soph, and Chris Cheek during the
WCU Jazz Festival each spring. The big band
performs a wide variety of jazz literature using
standard instrumentation of five saxophones,
four trombones, four to five trumpets, and a
full rhythm section consisting of piano, guitar,
bass, drums, and percussion.
Pavel Wlosok, the WCU Jazz Ensemble’s director, is assistant professor in jazz, commercial,
and electronic music at Western Carolina
since 1999. Pavel is the 2000 IAJE Gil Evans Fellowship recipient and has performed with jazz
greats Bob Berg, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon,
Conrad Herwig, Louis Hayes, Denis Irwin, Victor Lewis, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Janusz
Muniak, Dave Pietro, Paquito DeRivera, Rufus
Reid, Jon Riley, Lynn Seaton, Gary Smulyan, Ed
Soph, Bobby Watson, and Kenny Wheeler.
University, in Cullowhee, NC. He joined the
WCU faculty in 2002 after having taught jazz at
Truman State University. A Czech pianist, composer, arranger, and educator, Wlosok received
his classical education in piano performance
and composition at the Conservatory of Music
in Ostrava and Janáček Academy in Brno, and
he earned his bachelor and master degrees in
jazz studies at the University of North Texas.
Since coming to Cullowhee, Pavel has cofounded Acoustic Jazz Trio, whose members are
Asheville-based top musicians Eliot Wadopian
(bass) and Byron Hedgepeth (drums). Since
1999—along with his wife Andrea Wlosokova
Adamcova—Pavel has been performing in a
series of solo piano concerts called “Classical
Meets Jazz.”
Wlosok’s compositions have been performed
in the Americas and Europe as well as in
Japan, and he has been a regular lecturer at the
International Summer Jazz Camp in Prague
Kat Williams—the guest artist on this recording—has recently gained international acclaim
as a jazz singer. Her story is one of humble
beginnings and tenuous life situations. Born
in Buffalo, NY, in 1967 to a fourteen-year-old
mother she met only once, she became the
thirty-first foster child in the home of Mary
and L. C. Williams, who later adopted her.
Beginning at age nine, she spent the rest of
her childhood caring for her adoptive mother
who was slowly dying of cancer. Shortly after
her seventeenth birthday, both Mary and L. C.
passed away and Kat found herself homeless on
the streets of New York City. With a fiery passion for life, her exuberant personality, and her
undying perseverance, she blossomed gracefully
into a strong and independent woman.
In 1997 Kat moved to Asheville, NC, and soon
took the town by storm, becoming the most
sought after singer in the region. She bared her
soul to the crowd, inviting audiences in for a
glimpse of a truly phenomenal woman and
an authentic, from the heart, performer. Years
later, Kat’s musical philosophy is “I have no
competition—I can only give you the best of
me.” Filled with a passion for song, an astonishing animated style, a spirited sense of humor,
and that remarkable laugh, Kat takes the stage
and makes magic happen.
The WCU Jazz Ensemble Personnel (2009 and 2010)
Pavel Wlosok (director)
Kevin Kimbrough (lead)
Michael McConnell (lead)
Logan Deitz
Will Freeman
Crystal McDonald
David Mompoint (bass)
Richard Parker (bass)
Ryan Cameron (lead alto)
Brian Gluf (lead alto, tenor)
Scott Burr (alto)
Martin Baker (jazz tenor)
Steven Foster (jazz tenor)
Chris Taylor (tenor)
Hawk May (baritone)
Brandon Chapman (lead)
Josh Belvin
Jay Chamberlain
Chris McAllister
David Myers
JeVone Primus
Jake Waldrop
Rhythm section
Ryan Hudson (piano)
Justin W. Powell (piano)
Andrew Broome (guitar)
Luis Diaz (guitar)
Rebecca Lautier (guitar)
Daniel Iannucci (acoustic and electric bass)
Owen Tharp (acoustic and electric bass)
David Nelson (electric bass)
Matt France (drums and percussion)
Randall Harris (drums and percussion)
Daniel Reece (drums and percussion)
WCU Jazz Ensemble tracks recorded
by Dan Gonko in Center for Applied
Technology (CAT) on May 4th 2008,
May 2nd & 3rd 2009. Vocal tracks
recorded on March 14th 2010 by
Pavel Wlosok at SonicADventures.
All rights reserved.
CD liner notes by David C. Nichols
Photography by Pavel Wlosok
CD design by John Balentine