Available Now: Heads of State – “Four in One” on Smoke Sessions Records

Heads of State–Gary

Bartz, Larry Willis, David Williams and 

Al Foster–Four of the Most Revered and Influential Jazz Masters Unite

for Sophomore Release, Four in One 

Available Now on Smoke Sessions Records

“This is a supergroup worth hearing, not just for the names or egos,
but a real congregation of great musical spirits.” – DownBeat

“The cumulative wisdom of this all-star
collective simmers well…” – The New York Times

“…it is hard to think of another band of this style to touch them today.
The way they pick up fleeting clues from one another, like a four-way conversation full of allusions, is quite mind-boggling.” – The Guardian

The country as a whole may be bitterly divided over the results of the recent presidential election, but jazz fans of any political stripe can rejoice in the return of the music’s own Heads of State. With Four in One, the quartet of living legends — saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, drummer Al Foster, and their latest addition, bassist David “Happy” Williams — offer a jubilant, tremendously swinging sophomore release that pairs original compositions by all four members with pieces by some of the icons that have mentored them — in many cases personally. As remembered by Al Foster, “The session had a good feel, everyone was relaxed. We recorded the album in two sets and it felt kind of like a live concert. I think it’s mostly first takes if not all.”
Heads of State made their debut in 2015 with Search for Peace, recorded just months after they played together for the first time as a quartet at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York City. Now, with another year of playing together under their collective belts (on top of the nearly five decades of relationships shared by the various members), they return with the aptly-titled Four in One, available now via Smoke Sessions Records.
The title comes from the lesser-known Thelonious Monk composition that opens the album, but it also succinctly captures the strong group spirit and identity that have been forged by an all-star band that was originally meant to be a one-time thing. “We’re trying as best as we know how to establish our own identity,” Bartz explains, “and not sound like a jam session band.”
Given the impeccable taste and wealth of experience of all four members, there was very little chance of a “jam session” sensibility emerging in any case, but in the short time they’ve been working together the Heads of State have developed a lithe and lively group sound that’s equal parts burning and elegant, sharp-edged and gregarious. The band may have begun life as the Larry Willis All-Stars, assembled to pay tribute to the legendary McCoy Tyner (with whom Bartz, Foster and original Heads of State bassist Buster Williams had all played extensively), but very quickly morphed into a collective unit with a far more expansive mission.
“I realized that it would be ridiculous for me to assume any kind of band leadership with these guys,” says Willis about relinquishing his marquee status. “They’re all icons and legends in their own right, so we decided to co-op.”
While the bands’ first album was thrilling because it brought together four revered and masterful musicians in one place for the first time ever, Four in One may be even more exciting because it announces their intention to continue to play and evolve together. Given what happens when these four join forces, that’s one enticing prospect.

“Four in One” was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith and recorded live
in New York at Sear Sound’s Studio C on a Sear-Avalon custom console at
96KHz/24bit and mixed to ½” analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.
Available in audiophile HD format.

Heads of State · Four in One
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: March 24, 2017

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