The title of Williams' debut stops modestly short of such a bold argument, but does sum up the young bassist's of-the-moment approach. "I'm trying to interpret the times," Williams says, "to represent what's going on today." To that end, State of Art is a wholly contemporary amalgam of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and even classical influences which fully acknowledge the past while maintaining an urgency born of the here and now. The variety of flavors that comprise this musical stew, Williams explains, are drawn from his full 26 years of experience - with perhaps an extra nine months besides.
"I always feel like you start your musical training maybe even before you're born," he says. "Consciously or subconsciously you soak in all the music you hear around you, so when you do get to the point where you're expressing your own music that stuff is all mixed in there whether you like it or not. So I just try to be honest and represent all that influence."
The band Williams assembled for State of Art is a first-time assemblage of his peers, most of whom he's played with in a variety of different configurations. At its core, the band consists of tenor/soprano saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Matthew Stevens, keyboardist Gerald Clayton, drummer Jamire Williams (who also appeared with the bassist on Terrasson's Push) and percussionist Etienne Charles, joined on three tracks by alto/soprano saxophonist Jaleel Shaw. Williams mixes a string quartet into his arrangements of Jackson's "Little Susie" and Bay Area soul singer Goapele's tender, yearning "Things Don't Exist."