Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

285

Jessica Williams: Tatum's Ultimatum

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
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 of those bands. Maybe it's geographical—she's been west coast-based since 1977. Maybe it's a "woman in a man's world" thing.

But the why of it doesn't really matter. The music matters, and the music that Williams, after a long career, has made in this century (to slice a nice chunk off the ongoing effort) puts her in the top level of jazz pianists. Her Live at Yoshi's, Volume 1 (MaxJazz, 2004) and Songs for A New Century (Origin Records, 2008) showcase an artist blossoming into her prime in terms of artistic self assurance, spontaneity and the pure joy of creating beautiful sounds.

Which brings us to Tatum's Ultimatum, Williams solo piano tribute to the great Art Tatum. Tatum (1909-1956) was a technically brilliant pianist who took, in part, Fats Waller's stride foundation and ran with it, spruced it up and added a million fast notes and a bunch of exuberance. His art was joyous, flashy and full of life. And Jessica Williams takes his stylistic approach and runs with it.

Williams doesn't copy Tatum, but she gets into his spirit, and sounds as if she's having the time of her life on a bunch of tunes that Tatum played, including Sidney Bechet's "Petite Fleur," Gershwin's "Embraceable You," "Can't Get Started," and "Easy Living." She, like Tatum, can play fast, exploding with right hand bursts of bird song notes, each key touch clear and clean and separate, even at ninety miles per hour. There is, always, a twinkle-in-the-eye elegance to her approach that she roots firmly in a tradition and shades with her own colorful musicality.

Williams has positioned herself in the top level of current jazz pianists and, with discs like Songs for a New Century and Tatum's Ultimatum, she has established herself as the top solo pianist working today.

Track Listing: Gone with the Wind; Can't Get Started; Petite Fleur; I Never Knew; Embraceable You; Begin the Beguine; Ballad for Art Tatum; Squeeze Me; Easy Livin'; Drivin' Me Crazy; Ain't She Sweet.

Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano.

Title: Tatum's Ultimatum | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Blue & Red Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Wobbly Dance Flower" CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Dance Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Happiness!" CD/LP/Track Review Happiness!
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Instinct" CD/LP/Track Review Instinct
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 12, 2017
Read "Kill The Boy" CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "On the Spot" CD/LP/Track Review On the Spot
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "On Parade In Parede" CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017