In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, acclaimed Grammy-winning bassist, composer and bandleader Ben Williams today shared his powerful rendition of the civil rights classic “We Shall Overcome” via Billboard. With Frank Ocean-esque R&B production and a world class band, the track is a unifying call of the moment that grounds us in history, present, and a continuously hopeful future. It follows first soulful single “If You Hear Me” from his upcoming album I AM A MAN, out February 7, 2020 on Rainbow Blonde Records, a record label co-owned by singer, songwriter and kindred spirit José James. The title is a reference to picket signs held during Memphis’ historic 1968 African American sanitation workers’ strike and is Williams’ most poignant, sociopolitical statement yet.
I AM A MAN’s title references Memphis’ historic 1968 sanitation workers’ strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read, “I Am A Man” in arresting, boldface type. “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing – there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite activism such as Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements.
In addition to playing electric and acoustic bass, Williams sings lead on almost all the songs. Joining him is a stellar lineup, comprised of keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist David Rosenthal, tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, percussionist Bendji Allonce, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold, flutist Anne Drummond, and drummer Jamire Williams and Justin Brown. On some cuts, Williams complements the music with a string quartet, consisting of cellist Justina Sullivan, violist Celia Hatton, and violinists Maria Im and Chiara Fasi. Sharing vocal duties are the splendid special guests – Kendra Foster, Muhsinah, Wes Felton, and Niles.
2/8: New York, NY @ Nublu 151 (Album Release Show)