Home » Jazz Musicians » Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams is a well-known and highly respected pianist and composer who has deep roots in the Jazz Tradition. The two-time Grammy Nominee was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and classically trained at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. In her teens, Jessica moved to Philadelphia and began playing with the great Philly Joe Jones, drummer for the Miles Davis Quintet. Later, she moved to California, where she played in the bands of Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon, Tony Williams, Stan Getz, Big Nick Nicholaus, Airto and Flora, Charlie Rouse, John Abercrombie, Charlie Haden, Leroy Vinnegar, and others. She has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; a Rockerfeller Grant for composing; the Alice B. Toklas Grant for Women Composers, and the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Jessica has been an honored guest on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz.

She has released over 40 albums in a career spanning as many years. Her album Joyful Sorrow was among the Top 5 CDs of JazzTimes' Critics Poll in 1999, and her album In the Key of Monk won that honor again in 2000. In late 2004, her album LIVE at Yoshi's Volume One was nominated for a Grammy. In Europe, she scored Jazz Record of the Year for 2 consecutive years in the Jazz Journal International Reader's Poll. She has scored PBS and HBO specials, and has been presented the Keys to the City of both San Mateo, and Sacramento, California


John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship Grammy Nominee 1986, Best Instrumental Jazz Album National Endowment for the Arts ('88, '92) Alice B Toklas Fellowship Money for Women 1993 Rockerfeller Grant 1990 Record of the Year 1994, 1995, Jazz Journal International Presented a plaque of civic appreciation from Mayor Anne Rudin (CA) Meet the Composer Grant 1991 Keys to the City of Sacramento 1989 Sacramento Arts Commission, four grants, 1984-88 Keys to the City of San Mateo 1997 Artist of the Year Award Santa Cruz County 2002 One of the TOP 5 CDs of 2000 (JazzTimes Critics Poll; In the Key of Monk) One of the TOP 5 CDs of 1999 (JazzTimes Critics Poll; Joyful Sorrow) 15 Special Awards Panel Grants from ASCAP for composition Grammy Nominee 2004, Best Instrumental Jazz Album 2005 Best Jazz Album of the Year (Live at Yoshi's, Vol 2), All About Jazz Opened the Mary Lou WIlliams Women In Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in May, 2006, 2005


Steinway D


Radio & Podcasts

A Wish For the New Year With New Releases by Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding, Remembering Artists Who Passed and More

Read "A Wish For the New Year With New Releases by Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding, Remembering Artists Who Passed and More" reviewed by Mary Foster Conklin

This first broadcast of the new year celebrates 2023 with new releases from Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding and a single from Carla Muller, plus Part I of some favorite recordings of 2022 and a nod to some of the artists that left the planet last year. Thanks for listening and please support the artists you hear by purchasing their music during this time of pandemic so they can continue to distract, comfort, provoke and inspire.Playlist Pete Malinverni ...

Radio & Podcasts

JC Plays Pretty for You: Ballads, Blues, and Soulful Tunes

Read "JC Plays Pretty for You: Ballads, Blues, and Soulful Tunes" reviewed by David Brown

This week, The Jazz Continuum plays pretty for you. Ballads, blues, and soulful tunes from Vi Redd, Ben Webster, Joel Ross, Derek Bailey, Somi, Les McCann, and many more. Plus, a remembrance of pianist Jessica Williams. Playlist Joel Ross “Prayer" from The Parable of the Poet (Blue Note) 0:01:20 Randy Weston African Rhythms “Prayer Blues" from Kephera (Verve Records) 0:09:06 Vi Redd “If I Should Lose You" from Bird Call (United Artists Jazz) 0:16:19 Ben Webster “Time After ...


Remembering Jessica Williams: Trailblazing Pianist/Composer

Read "Remembering Jessica Williams: Trailblazing Pianist/Composer" reviewed by Paul Rauch

The world of jazz lost a bright star on Saturday, March 12, 2022, when iconic pianist/composer Jessica Williams passed at her home in Yakima, Washington with her devoted husband Duncan at her side. She was 73 years old. Williams was born in Baltimore, MD in 1948, and began playing piano at age 4. Classically trained, she went on to study classical music and ear training with Richard Aitken and George Bellows at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. From ...

Album Review

Jessica Williams: With Love

Read "With Love" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

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 ...

Album Review

Jessica Williams: Songs of Earth

Read "Songs of Earth" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

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 ...

Album Review

Jessica Williams Trio: Freedom Trane

Read "Freedom Trane" reviewed by Jeff Winbush

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 ...

Extended Analysis

Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane

Read "Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

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, ...

Read more articles


Jessica Williams: 1948-2022

Jessica Williams: 1948-2022

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Jessica Williams, a jazz pianist and composer of extraordinary talent and imagination whose style touched on bebop, fusion and the avant-garde, died on March 12, She was 73. Williams was a mystery to many jazz fans and jazz writers—a name you heard every so often but never got to hear live or see on TV. Intensely sensitive and private, she was averse to touring and preferred keeping to herself. Her keyboard approach was flavored by the styles of multiple jazz ...



Download Seven Free MP3s by Pianist Jessica Williams

Download Seven Free MP3s by Pianist Jessica Williams

Source: Michael Ricci

An AAJ exclusive!

Familiarize yourself with pianist Jessica Williams's music by downloading the seven free MP3s below.

And while you're enjoying the music, read Dan McClenaghan's interview, Jessica Williams: Musical Truths, published today.

Blues For BT Jessica Williams Billy's Theme 05:34 Vital Signs Jessica Williams Vital Signs 1:45 Empathy Jessica Williams Songs for a New Century 7:20 Wise One Jessica Williams Prophets 07:10 Tadd's Delight Jessica Williams ...



Pianist Jessica Williams Interviewed at AAJ...and More!

Pianist Jessica Williams Interviewed at AAJ...and More!

Source: John Kelman

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 ...



Recent Listening: Jessica Williams

Recent Listening: Jessica Williams

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Jessica Williams, The Art Of The Piano (Origin). Williams' 2800-word liner essay declares renewed and deepened love for the piano and rededicated independence from the strictures and orthodoxies of the music establishment. She cites an internet video clip of Glenn Gould playing Bach as “...a life-altering event" that took her back to “...a music founded on the purity and clarity and infinite tonal colorations of the piano itself." Those are qualities I have never found missing from her work, but ...


Performance / Tour

Jessica Williams concert tomorrow in San Francisco

Jessica Williams concert tomorrow in San Francisco

Source: All About Jazz

We are thrilled to present legendary jazz pianist Jessica Williams in a special solo performance at our San Francisco store on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8PM.

This is a rare opportunity to spend an intimate evening with Jessica as she presents the music of Ellington, Monk, Miles, Coltrane, and her originals on the Fazioli concert grand.

JESSICA WILLIAMS. solo piano; THURSDAY, November 3 at 8PM PIEDMONT PIANO CO., 660 3RD St. (between Townsend and Brannan) SAN FRANCISCO

$20 donation requested, ...

"One of the greatest jazz pianists I have ever heard." -Dave Brubeck

"Jessica is a beautiful player." -McCoy Tyner

"The most important pianist to arrive since Bill Evans." -Alun Morgan, Gramophone

"I"m running out of superlatives to describe her playing!" -Humphrey Littleton, BBC

"A vibrant force on the contemporary music scene." -Rolling Stone

"She should be heard by everyone who cares about jazz." -William Stephenson, Jazziz Magazine

"Jessica Williams may be the great living lyric poet of the piano. She is utterly magnificent." -Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

"I will say on record that I think she is the finest pianist of our time. And her records are bar none, the most consistently immaculate and for your hard- earned dollars, a Jessica Williams album is a no-brainer" -Fred Jung, All About Jazz

Read more



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

With Love

Origin Records


Freedom Trane

Origin Records


Songs of Earth

Origin Records


The Art of the Piano

Origin Records


Jessica Williams:...

Origin Records


Songs for a New...

Origin Records


Paradise of Love

From: With Love
By Jessica Williams


From: Songs of Earth
By Jessica Williams

The Seeker

From: Freedom Trane
By Jessica Williams

Rosa Parks

From: Touch
By Jessica Williams


From: The Art of the Piano
By Jessica Williams


From: Songs for a New Century
By Jessica Williams

Blues For BT

From: Billy's Theme
By Jessica Williams



Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.