Pianoless quartets with alto sax and trumpet on the front line inevitably conjure comparisons to Ornette Coleman’s seminal ensemble. The foursome assembled by drummer Jeff Williams on Another Time in 2011, and reprised here on The Listener, seems like a purposeful extension of the Coleman lineage. The original songs, most of them by Williams, are playful but not cute, and feel both airy and plangent as they wend their way forward. Bassist John Hebert, like Charlie Haden with Coleman, is an inventive rhythmic tent pole. Altoist John O’Gallagher favors skittering phrases while trumpeter Duane Eubanks features a more staccato attack; they complement each other as much in succeeding solos as in their unison passages.
All of this is reminiscent of Coleman’s quartet, yet Williams and company aren’t slavish imitators. They’re simply using the freedom Coleman created to fashion inside-outside explorations like “Scrunge/Search Me,” Latin-ish post-bop like “Borderline,” and a slightly skewed ballad-standard such as “Dedicated To You” in the same package to listeners who not only appreciate but thirst for the diversity. That The Listener is a live recording — the result of London transplant Williams bringing his New York cohorts over to an intimate English club — adds a welcome dollop of intensity.