Larry Ham/Woody Witt: Presence

by Tom Faddis

Jazz is a conversation, a relationship between musicians that conveys some of their deepest expression of self-awareness.  Music is a powerful vehicle of countenance, but in the hands of such masterful improvisors such as award-winning saxophonist, Woody Witt, and the influential educator and pianist, Larry Ham, who lends his trio comprised bassist Lee Hudson and drummer Tom Melito, the level of performance is unmatched.

Presence, finds the quartet exploring four Witt originals, three by Ham and two standards. “22’s Blues,” creates a vibrant introduction to the disc. The group swings with a mid-tempo swing feel as Witt’s signature tenor sound abounds the track with finesse and fluidity.  The trio supports Witt with a collective mind.  Ham’s comping is respectful and enlightened, while Hudson and Melito lock tightly.  Ham’s piano solo on the tune, also exhibits a subtlety that proves why Ham is a seasoned journeyman.

A wistful “The Edge Of Uncertainty” finds Witt masterfully utilizing a full-range on his tenor.  Digging into low notes for effect, with quick moments of arpeggiated lines and soaring screams and squawks, all for the sake of textural delight.  Witt is on fire on this track and makes each note count.

The key element to this quartet is each player brings a level of adroit abilities to the table, yet each supports and pushes the other further for the sheer nourishment of the listener.

A highlight track for me is “Concentric Circles,” what has always inspired me is when players can create a longing within a tune that savors each note with precision and control.  Mastering an instrument at a slow-tempo allows the player to truly stretch their wings and elongate notes, this is where hours with an instrument shows in the maturity of notes, the ideas conveyed and the sustaining of ideas in any given moment, for the emotional statement.  All of these elements are in play with this quartet, and it’s a listen that is timeless.  I could use countless words to describe the moments, but on this one – I encourage you to buy a copy for yourself, it will prove to be money well spent.


Tracks to sample first:
“22’s Blues,” “The Edge of Uncertainty,” The song to take a chance on is “Bleecker Street.”

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