Legendary jazz bassist Ben Williams' skill as an instrumentalist won him the Monk Competition and garnered him reviews by the New York Times and NPR. In his transcendent debut album as a singer, though, we finally meet Ben Williams as a songwriter and bandleader, presenting a groundbreaking account of civil rights and strength in the face of oppression.
I Am A Man's title references Memphis' historic 1968 sanitation workers' strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read, "I Am A Man" in arresting, boldface type. "The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing - there's something powerful about seeing this message over and over again," Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite activism such as Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements.
In addition to playing electric and acoustic bass, Williams sings lead on almost all the songs. Joining him is a stellar lineup, comprised of keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist David Rosenthal, tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, percussionist Bendji Allonce, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold, flutist Anne Drummond, and drummer Jamire Williams and Justin Brown. On some cuts, Williams complements the music with a string quartet, consisting of cellist Justina Sullivan, violist Celia Hatton, and violinists Maria Im and Chiara Fasi. Sharing vocal duties are the splendid special guests - Kendra Foster, Muhsinah, Wes Felton, and Niles.
Boasting a humid and hazy sound that recalls Soulaquarian albums released by The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D'Angelo, Common, and Roy Hargrove's RH Factor, Williams said he "wanted this record to deal with the past, present, and future." From hip hop grooves and cinematic synths to afrobeat-tinged R&B and haunting soul, he does just that.
2LP is 180g black vinyl.
- 180g Vinyl
- Double LP
- Intro: I Am A Man
- If You Hear Me
- March On (feat. Wes Felton)
- Promised Land (feat. Kendra Foster)
- High Road (feat. Muhsinah)
- Take It From Me (feat. Niles)
- Come Home (feat. Kendra Foster)
- The Death Of Emmett Till
- High Road Part 2
- We Shall Overcome