Bill Gilliam
Urban Undercurrents
Melos Productions (001)

Bill Gilliam, piano; Ernie Tollar, sax and bamboo flute; Lina Allemano, trumpet; Dave Young, bass; Howard Gaul, drums

This Canadian attacks the piano with the power and rhythmic sensitivity of McCoy Tyner but uses the punch to create a style that leaps far beyond influences. He's no less aggressive as a composer, seldom sticking to those snippets of lilting melody and featherweight playing before returning to the percussive pounding which, ultimately, will bring the listener back to the album.

Gaul's drumming is impressive, given how he flawlessly fulfills the dual duties of punctuating both the composition's sharp turns and the composer's emphatic style. It's seriously urban and contemporary writing throughout, which makes for a nice break from all those damned American songbook ballad collections lesser pianists churn out. There's no separation or variance in capability between the way Gilliam writes and plays, which is the sign of a well-developed musician.

by Dave McElfresh

New Sounds - CD Reviews March 2000