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.
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.
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.