Liquid Soul
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Liquid Soul


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"Back With Liquid Soul, He Still Doesn't Play By The Jazz Rule Book"

June 4, 2006

Mars Williams is the guy who put the wallop into acid jazz. In the early '90s, the saxophonist assembled Liquid Soul, a Chicago-based combo that synthesized jazz improv, hard-core funk, and hip-hop grooves. But after four albums and a decade of touring, Williams put the band on hiatus in 2004 while he threw his energy into other projects, such as the free-jazz institution NRG Ensemble and the avant-garde X Mars X. Now Williams has jumped back into the acid-jazz fray with a new version of Liquid Soul. The seven-member band celebrates the release of its new Telarc album, "One-Two Punch," on Thursday at Scullers. Williams didn't just recruit a fresh cast of players, he reinvented the band's sound with an eclectic collection of studio friends, such as DJ Logic, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Smashing Pumpkins drummer Matt Walker, and Widespread Panic keyboardist John Herman. The result is a series of dense, pummeling, electronic soundscapes that Williams navigates on his horn like a savvy windsurfer on a gale-tossed sea.

"I've been working a lot with electronics and loops, and we were able to get that density," Williams says."

"It's more of a studio project, though I'm trying to re-create that kind of sound live. I'm all for using loops and effects, as long as there's that human element. What's cool about Liquid Soul is that I've always left the doors open to where we can go."

From the opening track, "Baghdad Cafe," Williams makes it clear that he's not playing by the jazz rule book. Powered by Iqbaal Singh's kinetic tabla work, the piece sets an Arabic riff to an insistent rock back beat. Weighing in on various reeds and woodwinds, as well as keyboards, loops, and electronics, Williams is joined by a high-octane horn section featuring trumpeters Doug Corcoran and Hugh Ragin and trombonist Andy Baker. The album also marks the return of Liquid Soul cofounder Tommy Klein on guitar after almost a decade 's hiatus. A student of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians savants Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, Williams has moved easily between free jazz and rock settings. He spent years touring and recording with the Waitresses, the Psychedelic Furs, Ministry, Billy Idol, and the Fred Frith/Bill Laswell group Massacre. He first made a name for himself as one of the provocateurs in Manhattan's downtown scene, and then returned to his hometown, where he's played an essential role in Chicago's underground improvising scene as a member of the Peter Brotzman Tentet, the Vandermark 5, and Cinghiale. For Liquid Soul, Williams throws all his musical passions into a blender, an aesthetic he picked up in the late '70s when he was living in New York.

"It was a real growth period in music," Williams says.

"Musicians from all different genres were hanging out, talking, and the next thing you know we start playing with each other and you could hear that fusion in music happening at that time. We'd be out in a club, partying, just hanging out with Joey Ramone and Iggy Pop, Bill Laswell and John Zorn, all these different types of musicians, and then you start hearing these weird saxophones in pop music and this punk edge in jazz."

Given his far-flung musical involvements, it's not surprising that Williams is hesitant to even call Liquid Soul a jazz band. While there's an improvisational imperative at work, the group's sensibility draws equally from the world of hip-hip and rock, where texture and collage often trump bandstand interaction. For his main collaborator on "One-Two Punch," he choose to work with producer and engineer Van Christie. No aspect of the Liquid Soul sound has been more influential than the way Williams has incorporated DJs into the group's live performances. Early on he teamed up with DJ Logic, a virtuoso who has become the turntablist of choice for jazz musicians such as Don Byron, John Scofield, Christian McBride, and Medeski Martin and Wood. Long before he released his seminal 2001 debut CD, "Project Logic" (Ropeadope), the Bronx-born DJ had toured widely with Liquid Soul, showing it was possible for DJs to interact and shape the improvisational flow of the music.

"The first thing, they had a unique sound," Logic says." They had a vibe like what I was doing with the Project. I dug how they were open to different grooves. There's a lot of space to create in what Mars puts together. With 'One-Two Punch,' he wanted the extra ears. I basically hear different than what he's hearing. I'm looking at it as a remix, trying to add the right colors to the right spots."

- Boston Globe (Andrew Gilbert)

"One-Two Punch"

If the comic book album cover and liner notes don’t make you feel young again, the music on One-Two Punch will.

Liquid Soul combines acid jazz with R&B, soul, funk, hip-hop and rock, hitting with both barrels. One hand gets you with traditional jazz ambience, while the other hand comes on strong with contemporary thrills. The band, formed in the mid-1990s, focuses on leader Mars Williams' gritty tenor. He’s on fire throughout the session, pumping up the jam with megadoses of adrenaline. Sizzling trumpets turn up the heat, while guitar pushes the envelope. It’s both exciting and tasteful. Even the rap lyrics have a place in this amalgam.

”Baghdad Café” opens One-Two Punch with an up-to-the-minute jazz/rock reflection on current events. Several tracks indicate party time through various manners of celebration. “Body and Mind” combines R&B with sweet soul through the leader’s suave tenor. “Stop” pushes hard funk with a mesmerizing beat and rap lyrics that refuse to slow down. “Peanut Head” represents the hip nature of the band’s program through its meld of classic R&B with classic rock.

Liquid Soul presents Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop” as a brief interlude that lets his familiar melody flow freely, while “Nothing but Net” experiments with free jazz and traditional swing. What a combination! The result, of course, becomes a new entity, crossing many musical genres while providing a unique voice. Credited to Mars Williams and Albert Ayler, “Liquid Angels” gives the album its most outré moments.

Liquid Soul’s One-Two Punch has something for everyone. This program is enjoyable, rewarding and suitable for ages six through 106. - All About Jazz (Jim Santella)

"Liquid Soul Delivers a Solid One-Two Punch!"

One-Two Punch is Liquid Soul's 5th CD, and their debut release on Telarc. When I put this CD in my player, the infectious groove grabbed me right-away. And I thought "this isn't jazz, it's hip-hop but I dig it." After finishing it, and playing it through a few more times I realize that this music is not that easy to pigeon-hole. In One-Two Punch, Liquid Soul effectively combines elements of free-jazz and hard bop improvisation with urban rhythms from hip-hop to rock and funky horn section arrangements. In addition to original songs (mostly by reed-man Mars Williams), One-Two Punch includes very fresh arrangements of tunes by Dizzy Gilespe and Albert Ayler - these are more snipets than covers, paying homage to past masters. I can imagine a hip-hop fan saying "This is jazz, but I dig it." However, guests include DJ Logic, Vernon Reid and JoJo Hermann. One thing is certain, this music is very danceable - in fact it is hard to listen too without danncing. Duke Ellington once said that there are only two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. One-Two Punch falls firmly in the former category.

One-Two Punch opens with "Baghdad Cafe" which opens with background sounds, faint singing, a drum beat with a riff like the sound of machine guns, followed by an overdriven guitar vamp that continues as horns blow a middle eastern melody, then Mars Williams plays a reedy solo over it all on musette. The cacophony builds and ends with the sound of an explosion. This is followed by the funky "attaboy" is a dance party tune with funk style horn lines and plenty of electronica, guitar and moog solos. The R&B heavy "Body and Mind" has a spacey section in the middle with vibes and horns weaving intricate melodies. "Sex God" features a driving rthythm with Williams blowing a scorching tenor, followed by another spacey trip-hop section with haunting trumpets and electronic sounds echoing over a subdued rhythm until a killer rockish guitar solo speeds thing up back to the original rhythm. One-Two Punch continues with a wide variety of sounds and songs, but never leaves you very long without a solid groove.

Liquid Soul started in 1994, when the band was at the leading edge of a surging acid-jazz movement in the Midwest. Evolving from free-form hip-hop jams, the band coalesced and soon found a home every Sunday night at Chicago's Elbo Room. In 1996 their Sunday night gig moved to the Double Door in Wicker Park and held it for almost four years (Feb. 1996 to Dec. 1999), rarely missing a show even while playing nearly 200 gigs a year throughout the United States and Canada, plus performances in Germany, Turkey and Japan.

Saxophonist Mars Williams composed and arranged almost of the tunes on One-Two Punch. Williams studied with Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, and has worked as an arranger and orchestrator. An open-minded musician who commutes easily between free jazz and rock, Mars has played and recorded with The Psychedelic Furs, Massacre (the Fred Frith/Bill Laswell group), Ministry, Billy Idol, Power Station, Die Warzau, The Waitresses, Pete Cosey, Billy Squier and virtually every leading figure of New York City's "downtown" scene.

John Zorn calls Mars Williams "... one of the true saxophone players--someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn. This tremendous enthusiasm is an essential part of his sound, and it comes through each note every time he plays. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player."

Liquid Soul includes: Mars Williams on saxes and woodwinds, Phil Ajjarapu on bass, David "Boy Elroy" Arredondo on beat-box and vocals, Andy Baker on trombone, Chris "Hambone" Cameron on keyboards, Van Christie on programming, Doug Corcoran on trumpet, Mr. Greenweedz on vocals, Tommy Klein on guitars, DJ Logic on turntables, Mussettes on keyboards and loops, electronics, Brian "MC B" Quarles on vocals, Hugh Ragin on trumpet, Tony "Kick Drum" Taylor on drums, and Vernon Reid on guitar.

Additional Musicians on this recording include: Jim Dinou on electronic, Leddie Garcia on percussion, John "JoJo" Herman on keyboard, Steve Hunt on vibes, Teisha M Jackson on backing vocals, DJ Eddie Mills on turntables, DJ Scot "Rocket" Paskon on turntables, Cosmos Ray on backing vocals, DJ Redlox on turntables and vox, Brian Sandstrom on bowed double bass, Iqbaal Singh on dhol and tabla, David Suycott on drums, Angus "Bangus" Thomas on bass, and Matt Walker on drums.
- Jazz Police (Don Berryman)

"Liquid Soul: One-Two Punch"

The sum of many parts often times evolves into one major triumph. Such is the case with the Liquid Souls new upcoming release One-Two Punch that is a knockout in the world of innovative acid jazz. This disk has numerous directions of flow and unique results in sound. Telarc once more introduces fresh and invigorating musicians to enhance the jazz movement. Although Liquid Soul is not hot off the press with each cut of new product comes new experiences in groove.

Cut to cut each exhibits it's own dimension bringing forth a new outlook for the listener. This cannot be looked at as out of the jazz norm but more so as an enhancement of ones perception of the many voices of jazz. This then makes Liquid Soul more of a pioneer in revolutionary structure. A very insightful and groove-centered project!

Horns are the upfront sound with "Boxer's Fracture" with a strong groove. Also the keyboards of JoJo Hermann are quiet but not so timid as to the impact on this cut. An electric cut with dynamic vibes intertwining throughout!

Vernon Reid's string efforts are gargantuan in exit cut "Kong" as the whole arrangement has that colossus appeal. The brass keeps control of the whole ride just when you think they have fallen off the tracks. Although it may not be for the jazz traditionalists at heart it showcases the design and ingenuity of Mars Williams and cast.

For those who wear blinders and are comfortable with the jazz norm I ask you to do yourself justice by spinning this disk for it would be an injustice to pass it by. Williams and stage have taken sound to a barrier-free zone and accomplished an art form. Treat it as such and the respect to these who crafted the project be embraced.
- JazzTrenzz (Karl Stober)


ONE-TWO PUNCH (2006) Telarc Records

EVOLUTION (2002) Shanachie Records

HERE'S THE DEAL (2000) Shanachie Records
Grammy Nominated Best Contemporary Jazz Album

MAKE SOME NOISE (1998) Ark 21 Records

LIQUID SOUL (1996) Ark 21 Records



Having exploded from a small underground street-jazz sound in Chicago in the mid-1990s, the Liquid Soul universe continues to expand at a dizzying pace. Founded and led by innovative saxophonist/composer Mars Williams, the ensemble has developed a trademark mixture of jazz and urban dance music that incorporates everything from R&B to hard-bop to hip-hop to world music and more. Downbeat proclaims that Liquid Soul “sweeps the mold and mildew out of jazz-funk and breathes it back to glorious life.”

With a marathon touring schedule that has included everything from performing at the Presidential Inaugural Parade to headlining the first acid-jazz performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Liquid Soul has evolved into an intuitively tight outfit that knows no stylistic limitations. The amalgamation of genres created by the eight-piece collective is a blend of pure musicianship, a fiercely passionate fire and the inherent fun of a pure dance groove. The result is a unique live music experience that draws a diverse legion of fans, spanning across multiple age and ethnic groups.

The story of Liquid Soul begins in 1994, when the band was at the forefront of a burgeoning acid-jazz movement in the Midwestern United States. Evolving from free-form hip-hop jams, the band coalesced spontaneously and soon found a home every Sunday night at Chicago’s Elbo Room. Word spread fast, attracting like-minded individuals from far and wide to the small stage. Thanks to these auspicious midnight marathons, Liquid Soul soon solidified into a steady working unit.

The group quickly morphed well beyond their improv-oriented acid jazz beginnings, and their eponymous, do-it-yourself debut album – originally released in 1996, on their own Soul What label – was quickly picked up and distributed by Ark 21 Records. The band was thrust further into the limelight after a highly publicized gig at Dennis Rodman’s birthday party. They relocated their regular Sunday night gig to the Double Door in Wicker Park and held it for nearly four years (February 1996 to December 1999). In that time, they rarely missed a Sunday evening while playing nearly 200 gigs a year throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Germany, Turkey and Japan.

Along the way, the band has garnered nationwide acclaim. They have opened for Sting, played at the inaugural parade and 21st century ball, and twice rocked South By Southwest, where they were heralded by the Austin American-Statesman as “the single hottest showcase of the festival.” In addition to their ambitious tour schedule in the late ‘90s, they also recorded three more critically praised albums – Make Some Noise (1998), Here’s the Deal (2000) and Evolution (2002).

The band joined the Telarc label in 2006 with the June release of One-Two Punch. Co-produced by Williams and Van Christie (whose prior credits run the gamut from Die Warzau to Clay People to National Trust), One-Two Punch enlists a small army of cutting-edge players, including a few high-profile special guests: turntable virtuoso DJ Logic, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Widespread Panic keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann and Smashing Pumpkins drummer Matt Walker. The album also marks the return of Liquid Soul co-founder/guitarist Tommy Klein, and includes the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Phil Ajjarapu, drummer Tony “Kick Drum” Taylor and beat box maestro David “Boy Elroy” Arredondo.

“This record is a little bit different,” says Williams. “It’s still Liquid Soul, but I’ve taken it further. I’m doing more in the way of manipulating sounds and styles. In addition to that, there are a lot of different voices here besides my own. This record includes several people with whom I like to colaborate. I can introduce a song or an idea, but then I like to give it to somebody and let them interpret it in their own way or add something to it.”

Live or in the studio, playing it hard or smooth, Liquid Soul is a fiery concoction of classy soloists, heavy rhythm merchants and hip-hop cognoscenti. They are in a group that thrives on contact with their audience. One canot help being moved by Liquid Soul’s ongoing party philosophy. The band’s in-the-tradition repertoire extends from classic compositions by Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis to excursions on the latest breakbeats and mad samples. They continue to bridge the musical gap between standard jazz improvisation and urban rhythm. And as always, the band stays true to its roots with a continued philosophy of bringing jazz back to the dance floor.