507

Jessica Williams: Touch

Dan McClenaghan By
Published:
Views: 11,636
Jessica Williams

Touch

Origin Records

2010

Pianist Jessica Williams continues to evolve, and what a pure music lover's joy it is to hear an artist entering her sixth decade on a roll, growing and expanding her vision. Classically trained at the Peabody Conservatory, jazz-trained in the bands of Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, Stan Getz and others, Williams furthered her education with her own—more than seventy—albums/CDs as a leader.

Always a high level jazzer, Williams rose to the top ranks of her craft when she started her own Red and Blue Records. Three of the label's discs stand out as vehicles toward Williams ascent to the peak of her profession: For John Coltrane (2005), Tatum's Ultimatum (2007) and Deep Monk (2008). The sets are Williams' very deeply-felt personal tributes to three giants, John Coltrane, Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk. These would have cemented her reputation as a singular artist. But...

In the same time frame when she was recording these tribute albums on her own label, Williams was also—for Seattle's Origin Records—recording her own solo piano CDs, pure Jessica sets: Songs for a New Century (2008), where the pianist jettisoned all the hype and expectations and found her musical center, The Art of the Piano (2009), which is very similar to Songs...," but played in a live in concert rather than in studio, and now Touch.

Vocalist Tony Bennett was reportedly informed, early in his career by Pearl Bailey, that it was going to take him ten years merely to learn how to walk out on the stage. If that is true, how long does it take to learn how to touch a key on the piano? How softly or how hard to press in any given situation? How long to sustain (or not sustain) the note?

Williams "touch" on the piano is her voice. It can be elegant or down and dirty, erudite or fun-loving, and always seems full of a far-reaching, seeking spirituality. She is a rare artist whose each individual note, each touch of a key, contains clarity and beauty and wonder.

Touch, the CD, takes the sound of discovery and wonder Williams has offered up the the previously mentioned Origin Records sets and pushed it forward.

Williams feels her way into the familiar on the disc's opening cut, Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy." When she finds the melody, she expresses it with a lush harmony and a relaxed feel. She makes it sound holy, like a ruminative prayer of solemn joy and praise. The audience, at song's end, hesitates, stunned perhaps, before it breaks into into applause, a whoop from the back of the room. It may have been the most beautiful nine minutes they have ever heard.

The three other non-originals on the set get similar treatment. Coltrane's "Wise One" carries on Williams' fascination with the late saxophonist. She is his finest interpreter, capturing his otherworldly sacredness of his music. "I Cover the Waterfront" lightens the mood, with Williams dishing out flurries of notes with her right hand, a deliberate rhythm in her left. On Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," the legendary bassist/composer's tribute to saxophonist Lester Young, Williams captures the near teeth-gnashing pathos of the original—from Mingus Ah Um (Columbia Records, 1959)—and tempers it with acceptance while still seeming to question a creator who would take such a gentle soul away.

Williams original tunes glow with joy and rapture. They seem to grow free like vibrant flowering vines, entwining rhythmic fence posts as they open up melodic and harmonic blooms. "Soldaji" sounds like an awakening from a gentle dream. "Rosa Parks" brims with a simple beauty and hope. And "Simple Things" closes the set on a buoyant note that leaves a smile.

Touch is the work of a supremely confident artist who has mastered her craft and melded it to her spiritual center, to share it. Absolutely gorgeous!


Track Listing: I Loves You Porgy; Soldaji; Rosa Parks; Wise One; Gail's Song; I Cover the Waterfront; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; Simple Things.

Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Origin Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Interviews
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
With Love
With Love
Origin Records
2014
buy
Songs of Earth
Songs of Earth
Origin Records
2012
buy
Freedom Trane
Freedom Trane
Origin Records
2012
buy
Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane
Jessica Williams:...
Origin Records
2011
buy
The Art of the Piano
The Art of the Piano
Origin Records
2010
buy
Jessica Williams: Touch
Jessica Williams:...
Origin Records
2010
buy

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google banner ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Fund All About Jazz's Future