Jessica Williams: All Alone (2003)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Pianist Jessica Williams follows up on last year's trio outing This Side Up with All Alone, a collection of standards and originals for solo piano that she plays with great imagination and dexterity. And when Williams plays, she doesn't play around, taking on all-time champion composers like Ellington, Mingus, and Irving Berlin.
The pianist takes "As Time Goes By" through several styles and tempos before finally returning it to its table at Rick's. Williams explores the higher register of the keys on "In A Sentimental Mood," quoting Duke's introduction not in imitation but as an homage to the source. She gives another small nod at the end of the title track, when she playfully forges Monk's signature. Williams is contemplative on "Warm Valley" as she softly explores its possibilities, ending the journey with a lovely, spiraling cascade of notes. The standouts among the originals are "The Sheikh," where she strums the piano strings and uses its body for percussion while playing conventionally. "Bill's Beauty" is a spare yet haunting ballad that should be a standard in no time.
Williams plays with a rare fluidity and deftness. She has a clear tone and a lively style; her left hand is aggressive without being reckless, and she's adventurous without showing off. She can play with whispering tenderness or startling force. This versatility serves her well on All Alone.
Track Listing: 1. As Time Goes By (Hupfeld) - 4:53
2. In a Sentimental Mood (Ellington/Kurtz/Mills) - 5:28
3. Warm Valley (Ellington) - 6:25
4. All Alone (Berlin) - 6:02
5. They Say It's Wonderful (Berlin) - 5:13
6. Don't Explain (Herzog/Holiday) - 5:24
7. Toshiko (Williams) - 3:52
8. The Sheikh (Williams) - 4:33
9. Bill's Beauty (Williams) - 5:09
10. The Quilt (Williams) - 5:37
11. Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then... (Mingus) - 5:10
12. Too Young to Go Steady (Adamson/McHugh) - 4:00
Personnel: Jessica Williams - Piano
Record Label: MAXJAZZ