Chet Williamson

Chet Williamson

WILLIAMSON's Chromatic Swing is the sound of the chromatic harmonica soaring through the swing classics of the immortal Big Band era. As Chet Williamson shows on his unique new release, it's the perfect way to revisit old friends and see them in a whole new light.

After 25 years of performing and recording as a sideman with jazz and blues, folk, pop and gospel groups, Williamson steps out on his own, with a disc of swing standards made famous by the likes of Count Basie, Charlie Shavers and Harry "Sweets" Edison. Combining the grace of Toots Thielemans, the excitement of Larry Adler, and a rhythm section drenched in the blues, Williamson has created a refreshing recording that puts timeless pieces into a whole new context.

Three players who take a highly personal route through both swing and the blues join Williamson on his journey through jazz chestnuts and harmonica classics. Pianist Matt McCabe (Sugar Ray Norcia, Roomful of Blues, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets) and drummer Steve Ramsay (J. Geils/Magic Dick Bluestime) work with the most devoted carriers of the jump blues torch. Bassist Thomson Kneeland brings a highly adventurous sound garnered from experience playing jazz that ranges from Dixieland to the avant-garde.

Recorded "live-in-the-studio" -- almost entirely in one take -- Chromatic Swing is an all-acoustic date that shows four top-notch musicians dedicated to challenging solos and breathtaking interplay. The group's rhythm section quickly locked in, and pushed the music to a higher level during the entire session.

The disc opens with McCabe's plink, plink, plinking into Basie's "Jive at Five." Williamson soon arrives with a warm, soulful sound that comes straight from the place where the jazz and blues meet. Passionate takes on the Harmonicats hit "Peg O' My Heart" and the Benny Goodman-identified "Jersey Bounce" are combined for a heartfelt medley.

One of the joys of this disc is its sheer variety. Remembering that the swing legends made jazz you could dance to, Williamson comes up with a highly unusual Latin-goes-harmonica medley consisting of two Albert Dominguez compositions, "Frenesi" and "Perfidia." Then, Williamson gives a single harmonica the power of a 10 piece horn section on "Topsy."

After breathing delightful new life into standards "Undecided" and "I'm Confessin'," the quartet put their spin on one of Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian's lesser recorded gems, "A Smooth One." A tune favored by bop guitarists finds itself a perfect match for the silky sounds of the chromatic harmonica.

Listeners will find that the final track brings an extra special treat, as Williamson and Kneeland team up for a highly rare harmonica and acoustic bass duet, "Body and Soul." The combination of Williamson's rich chromatic sound and Kneeland's meditative grace is one of the disc's finest moments. Like all of Chromatic Swing, it contains the magic of inventive players revisiting the tunes that have stood the test of time.

Some reviews:
Source: Telegram & Gazette Worcester, MA
Title: Williamson's 'uptown sound' is hot
Chet Williamson's skills on the harmonica have never been in doubt as he's traveled a 20-years-and-counting musical career. But with the recently released compact disc "Chromatic Swing," we hear how Williamson has banged those skills into a signature sound.

Review by Mark Murphy
Chromatic harmonica player Chet Williamson leads a talented jazz quartet through their paces on this CD. The fact that this entire album was recorded in a single day speaks to the talent of these musicians. Matt McCabe on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass and Steve Ramsay on drums pay tribute to the greats of the big band era with selections such as Count Basie’s “Jive at Five” and “Blue and Sentimental,” and Benny Goodman’s “Smooth One.” My guess would be these guys are great live. For appreciators of the golden age of jazz, this one is well-worth seeking out.

Review by Richard Bourcier
Although this disc is not "jazz" in the true sense of the word, it brings back the sound of the swing classics.
Veteran harmonica player, Chet Williamson, leads his quartet through a nice mix of tunes made famous by Basie, Goodman, Chick Webb, Ellington and others. Joined by pianist Will McCabe, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Steve Ramsey. Williamson plays in the tradition of Larry Adler and Toots Thielmans.

"Chromatic Swing" titles:
01. Jive at Five
02. Down for Double
03. Peg O' My Heart/ Jersey Bounce
04. Frenesi/Prefidia
05. Blue and Sentimental
06. Topsy
07. Undecided
08. I'm Confessin'
09. A Smoothe One
10. Body and Soul

Little David's Harp
969 Main St. #2
Holden, MA 01520
(508) 829-6718
Chet Williamson

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