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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: With Love

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Successful musicians play “the truth." If you want to hear some truth there are certain artists you can seek out. Thelonious Monk couldn't play anything but the truth, right from the beginning. Pianist Jessica Williams came upon the truth--a purer form of it, at least--after experiencing “the fix of Illness" that she has discussed on her website and in interviews. Her first “fix" came about via her struggle with hypothyroidism, and resulted in a string of gorgeous recordings on Origin Records: Songs for a New Century (2008), Art of the Piano (2009), Touch (2010), and Songs of Earth (2011).

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Songs of Earth

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Jessica Williams, with her last four CDs on Origin Records, is like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. Earlier in her career, Williams--who once held the piano chair in drummer Philly Joe Jones band--wrapped her artistry in the Great American Song on Some Ballads Some Blues (Red and Blue, 1999), along with stellar tributes to departed star pianists Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk.Around the beginning of her teaming with Origin Records--in conjunction with the creation of her own Red and Blue Records label--Williams, always a top level musician with huge technique, began to blossom. With her Origin ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams Trio: Freedom Trane

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It is no coincidence that pianist Jessica Williams draws inspiration and energy from saxophonist John Coltrane, another iconoclast whose dogged pursuit of his individalistic muse stood in defiance of trends, customs, critics, and marketplace concerns. Like Coltrane, Williams prides herself in being relentlessly faithful to her own standards of how to play and how to market her music. While that enables her to be a fiercely independent talent, it has also made her an underrated one.On her solo piano outings, such as The Art of the Piano (Origin Records, 2009), Williams' playing is engaging while remaining serious and ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane

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Jessica WilliamsFreedom TraneOrigin Records2011 Jessica Williams, one of our top jazz pianists, has evolved since she tossed the record company expectations and jazz games out the window into the thorny rose bushes, and sought out her own way, and found it, via the establishment of her own record label, Blue & Red Records, and with the work she has done for Seattle's Origin Records. Songs for a New Century (Origin Records, 2008), and her tribute discs exploring the works of pianists Thelonious Monk, Deep Monk (Blue & Red Records, 2008), and ...

INTERVIEWS

Jessica Williams: Musical Truths

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Pianist Jessica Williams begins a free-wheeling and fascinating conversation with a fan by thanking him for the kind words he has spoken about her music. Then she adds: “But you don't always have to say kind words, you know, as long as you always say the truth."It's advice that is very much in character with the artist who has, in the past few years, been on a quest for musical truths, as well as for peace and love, the words she may write on one of her CDs if requested to sign.Williams is intelligent ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Jessica Williams: Touch

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Jessica WilliamsTouchOrigin Records2010 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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: The Art of the Piano

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Jessica Williams has been playing piano since she was four years old, and realized early on that she wanted to continue doing so for the rest of her life. Her choice is our reward. The Art of the Piano, a solo piano set, was recorded in May 2009 at the Triple Door in Seattle, WA. The first two numbers, “Triple Door Blues" and “Esperanza," are followed by enthusiastic response, after which the audience inexplicably disappears, returning at the end of track six, “Prophets," then vanishing again before applauding the finale, John Coltrane's “Lonnie's Lament."

Besides composing six of the album's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Art of the Piano

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Pianist Jessica Williams' third Origin Records CD, The Art of the Piano, brings to mind Brad Mehldau's Art of the Trio series that ran through five discs. In Mehldau's case the recordings were, of course, with his trio, featuring bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy (later, Jeff Ballard). Williams' three sets on Origin are all solo efforts, and they are all marvelous explorations of the pianist's singular artistry.Williams, who sat in with Philly Joe Jones' group back in the 1970s, is no stranger to playing in the trio format. Always a top tier, if somewhat under appreciated, ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Jessica Williams

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It is hard to think of a jazz musician who has gone her own way more resolutely than pianist Jessica Williams. She works only on her own solo and trio projects, never as a sideperson. She engineers her own albums for her own label, Red and Blue, and sells them on her own website, which she designs and maintains herself. She plays only in the venues she chooses (and she almost never chooses clubs). Even her place of residence is individualistic: Washington state (in a suburb of Tacoma). Of her career in music she says, “I've always managed to make ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Deep Monk

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Do we really need another tribute to Thelonious Sphere Monk? Everybody who is anybody in the jazz game has put a Monk song on an album. Some have been so bold as to dedicate an entire album to the odd and angular songs full of playful dissonance and unexpected angles.Not easy tunes to play, they say. But the jazz family patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, does a masterful job of it on An Open Letter to Thelonious (ELM Music, 2008), employing, as Monk did almost exclusively in the masterful twilight years of his career at Columbia Records, a quartet fronted ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Blood Music

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This electronically rendered music thing got its start with Wendy (then Walter) Carlos back in 1968, with the Grammy-winning Switched-On Bach (CBS Records). Carlos played the then-new Moog Synthesizer, giving a serous electric glow to composition by Johann Sebastian Bach.Now Jessica Williams--one of the finest acoustic jazz pianists alive--"switches on" for Blood Music.“NOT JAZZ," it says of the CD on Williams' website. The often dense, electrically orchestral and frequently groove-oriented sound gets tagged “creative, Indie, 21st century music," which pretty well nails it.Jessica Williams plays music. Okay, she's made her name as a jazz ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Tatum's Ultimatum

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Rule Number 1 of writing a music review: try to be at least half as creative and spontaneous as the music at hand. Rule Number 2: If it's Jessica Williams' music you're writing about, good luck with Rule Number 1.Pianist Jessica Williams is another one of those jazz artists who hasn't received the acclaim she deserves. With forty years of professional playing and fifty albums to her credit, she doesn't boast a top-of-the-line profile of the Keith Jarrett or Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea variety. Maybe it's because she never played with Miles Davis. Players got launched out ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Songs for a New Century

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If you slip into Jessica Williams' web site and ride the currents of her blog, you could get the feeling that the (proudly) sixty year-old jazz pianist is something of an eccentric. Which is a good thing--in this case, an eccentric being one who has walked away from the hype, b.s. and group think with her head held high, coming up with her own take on the world and this thing called life that we're trying to navigate with as much grace as possible. Her writings reveal a woman of exceptional grace and wide-ranging intelligence, and they also reveal a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jessica Williams: Billy's Theme

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One great pianist deserves another. Billy Taylor, who needs no introduction to jazz fans around the world, is the honoree (tributary?) in this solo recital by longtime friend and ardent admirer Jessica Williams, who may need an introduction to some but can easily hold her own against the most accomplished pianists one cares to name.

As she has shown on many occasions (and recordings), Williams is a virtuoso with either hand or both. Her agile right hand always finds exactly the right note or chord to brighten any musical scenario, while her left is capable of sculpting cavernous counterpoints worthy ...



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