Audacity. It's a word that seems ideally suited to the bold and intrepid bassist Buster Williams. Whether supplying eminently tasteful but strong-as-steel backing for singers like Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, or venturing into uncharted new territory as a member of Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking Mwandishi band, Williams' playing has always evidenced that fearless willingness to leap without hesitation into the unknown. With his new recording, Audacity, Williams marks another chapter in that ongoing history. The LP finds Williams stepping into the studio as a leader for the first time since 2004's Griot Liberte, leading his long-running all-star quartet Something More with saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist George Colligan and drummer Lenny White.
An interlocking swing and sense of endless possibilities is evident throughout, not least on the burly post-bop burner of a title tune, which spurs a sharp, probing solo from Colligan and a daring display of grooving elasticity from the leader. But it's also there straight out of the gate on the opener "Where Giants Dwell," which wastes no time tearing into Williams' monumental theme before Wilson launches into a ferocious saxophone run. A gripping journey in and of itself, "Song of the Outcasts" is a nod to the Eastern European gypsies whose boundary-free, nomadic lifestyles and music have inspired Williams. Both the lullaby-like lilt of "Ariana Anai" and the tender "Briana" were written with Williams' granddaughters in mind, his adoration of the girls evident in the moving sentiment of the two pieces. The anthemic "Triumph" boasts the kind of quiet audacity necessary to win small victories over what Williams calls "the vicissitudes of daily living."
In addition to his own compositions, Williams urged each of his bandmates to contribute new tunes for the session. Wilson is represented by "Sisko," a muscular swinger that weaves his sinuous alto over a roiling, surging groove. Colligan's "Lost on 4th Avenue," with its declamatory opening bass solo, relates the feeling of wandering through a mysterious urban landscape in a raptly narrative fashion, while White's "Stumblin'" is a joyous romp that draws fleet, agile expression from all four players.