Half Note celebration

Celebrating its 25th year of business this season, the capital’s Half Note Jazz Club, which relocated to its current address in the Metz district eight years ago, will be reopening its doors for the new season this Friday with the Grammy award-winning bassist Buster Williams from New Jersey as the opening act. The 60-year-old Williams, who has played and recorded alongside numerous jazz greats in his lengthy career, including Art Blakey, Chick Corea, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, will be at the club until next Thursday. So far, the venue has announced a further three back-to-back one-week residencies. South African reggae musician Ras Dumisani will take over the stage for a week of shows between October 25 and 31; Esma, a Gypsy artist from the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), will perform between November 1 and 7; and Chico Freeman, a respected and multifaceted musician, has been lined up for November 8-14. Returning to Williams, this prodigious figure’s activities have included soundtracks for films, among them David Lynch’s «Twin Peaks.» Williams, the son of a bassist father – who combined working various day jobs to support his family of six with playing jazz at clubs at night – learned plenty from his father. «He would prepare my lessons for me and when I got home from school I was supposed to practice, then he would listen while he was eating dinner. It was an unwritten law that I had to play it right or hear about it. I was going to be the best. I had no choice,» Williams recalls in his autobiography. The hard work paid off. By his late teens Williams’s career had begun in earnest and, by the age of 20, he was touring Europe and meeting musicians who would figure heavily in his future, such as Miles Davis, Ron Carter, and Herbie Hancock. Renowned for a deep, resilient and inventive playing style, Williams has developed into a bassist of choice throughout the jazz world. In the late 1980s, Williams decided to form his own band, which he called Something More. «After working almost continuously for 30 years as a sideman, I decided it was time to take the plunge, step up front, play my music, and express my concept of a cohesive musical unit,» Williams notes in his biography. «I’ve served my apprenticeship under many great masters and feel that it’s my honor and privilege to carry on the lineage that makes this music such an artistically rich art form,» he adds. Dumisani, the South African reggae artist who takes the baton from Williams at the Half Note, has focused his musical activity abroad after encountering difficulties at home with his politically fueled work. Dumisani, who emerged as a recording artist 10 years ago, is nowadays based in France and performs frequently around Europe. Esma, a Gypsy artist from FYROM who is scheduled for a week of shows at the venue following Dumisani, has also traveled widely in recent years on tours. She will be backed by a brass band. The venue then swings backs into jazz mood with Freeman, a respected and multifaceted jazz player, who will tour here with his latin-jazz band Guataca, one of the artist’s many ongoing projects. A multi-reedman and keyboards player, Freeman, like Williams, was born into a musical family and is the son of tenor sax great Von Freeman. His countless, and impressive, collaborations have included working with Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, Jack DeJohnette, and Art Blakey. Although jazz was the first musical style Freeman was exposed to, he has been associated with a diversity of styles including blues, pop and R&B. Freeman played some of his early shows alongside the bluesman Memphis Slim, while, later on in his career, he found himself offering his musical dexterity to pop and R&B acts, many of them top-selling, such as the Temptations and the Four Tops. Freeman has maintained this diversity, as is reflected by his current, wide-ranging performing activity. In recent times, Freeman has toured with the McCoy Tyner Trio, the Bill Cosby All-Stars, and his father, and has also maintained a quartet of his own, played with various upcoming musicians, and fronted Guataca, the band which local fans will be seeing along with this talented musician.