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Jessica Williams: With Love

Dan McClenaghan By

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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).

Williams' second fix came about with the deterioration of the lumbar region of her spine and the surgery to ameliorate the problem—again, well-documented on her website. The malady and the subsequent surgery sidelined her. With Love is her first post-surgery release. It is all ballads—mostly show tunes, familiar and encoded in the jazz canon: "For All We Know," "My Foolish Heart, " "I Fall In Love too Easily, " Gershwin's "Summertime."

Williams, in the past, has been capable of impressive pyrotechnics, displayed up front on her marvelous Tatum's Ultimatum (Red & Blue Records, 2008) set, a tribute to the exuberant Art Tatum. And she's also capable of deep spiritual and musical depth as she is on her previous Origin Records outings. This time out that flash, and her enormous technique, take a big back seat. The music on With Love is about simplicity, melodic purity and the emotions—mostly love—contained in the lyrics to these enduring movie/show and standards.

This straight ahead approach, this marinating in the melody without artifice, without flash or a hint of pretention, reveals the human side of the lyrical content of these songs—the truth of these songs. And Williams offers up one of her own compositions, "Paradise of Love," that fits in with the familiar, a lovely, human, truthful tune.

Track Listing: For All We Know; My Foolish Heart; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Summertime; But Beautiful; When I Fall In Love; Paradise of Love; It Might As Well Be Spring; Somewhere.

Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano.

Title: With Love | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Origin Records


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