ALL ALONE - Jessica Williams, solo piano, on Maxjazz - ****1/2 stars in Jazzscene Magazine, "One of the finest solo piano albums I've ever heard" - Jack Bowers, All About Jazz - ALBUM AVAILABLE HERE
1 As Time Goes By full-length (Hupfield)
2 In a Sentimental Mood (Ellington)
3 Warm Valley (Ellington)
4 All Alone (Berlin)
5 They Say It's Wonderful (Berlin)
6 Don't Explain (Holiday)
7 Toshiko full-length (J. Williams)
8 The Sheikh full-length (J. Williams)
9 The Quilt (J. Williams)
10 Orange was the Color of her Dress Then Silk Blues (Mingus)
11 Too Young to go Steady (McHugh)
12 Bill's Beauty (J. Williams)
Total time- 62:05
Review in All About Jazz;
"I could review Jessica Williams' newest release in a single phrase - one of the finest solo piano albums I've ever heard - but I presume the average reader would appreciate more information than that. I could further cite her impeccable taste, remarkable technique, pristine sound and boundless inspiration, but even those descriptions can't adequately delineate the entire package." -Review by JACK BOWERS, ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Review by C. Michael Bailey, Feb 03 2003, ALL ABOUT JAZZ
This time last year saw the debut release of West Coast pianist Jessica Williams for MAXJAZZ.
This Side Up (2002), an exceptional standard trio offering, blew over the piano landscape like a nuclear tsunami, flattening all lesser offerings at the time. Williams's encyclopedic understanding of the many schools of jazz piano and the styles of those schools' greatest practitioners prompted this writer to say, Ms. Williams has the facility to play in any damn style she likes, thank you! In the end Jessica Williams plays like Jessica Williams.
So what, then, does Williams do to follow up such a recording? She prepares a splendid solo recital. She opens the festivities with "As Time Goes By" where she strolls through about a dozen styles and squeezes as many ideas into five minutes as Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson ever thought to do, and without the showoff potential.
Williams shows her love for Ellington by performing "In a Sentimental Mood" followed by the beautiful "Warm Valley." "Mood" is performed with a very Monkish left hand, characterized by simple 4/4 chording. She follows Ellington with two very personal and introspective Berlin pieces, the title cut and "They Say Its Wonderful."
Jessica Williams shows offer her considerable composing talents on four pieces, beginning with the Oriental-tinged "Toshiko," a loving homage to bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi. "The Sheikh" contains some provocative damping of the piano strings along with some other interesting percussive effects. Nominally a blues "Sheikh" stretches in depth and breadth, revealing itself as the centerpiece of this very fine set of performances.
The disc closes with two desperately different compositions. The first is Minguss "Orange was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk." Williams provides this troublesome piece of music with a balladic sheen, a worthy tribute to Mingus, the exasperating genius. The closing piece is a lovely "Too Young to Go Steady" a beautiful innocent closer to as fine a piano recording as we are likely to hear this year.
One can only hope that Williams continues her very fertile relationship with MAXJAZZ.
-C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
Review by George Fendel for JAZZSCENE ****1/2 stars
Before the first bars of As Time Goes By have, if you will, gone by, a sprightly little Monkish turn informs us that the pianist can be none other than Jessica Williams. But a bit later in the same tune, she heads in the direction of Erroll Garner. No, Jessica Williams is no chameleon.
She can simply bring to light whatever she feels from her piano.
This being a solo set it is indeed full of feeling and Jessica is one of the best at finding all the possibilities within any piece of music, daring or otherswise. She's right on target here with standards such as In A Sentimental Mood, Warm Valley, All Alone, They Say It's Wonderful, Don't Explain and even the old Jimmy McHugh pop tune, Too Young To Go Steady.
To these add a Charles Mingus opus and four of Jessica's creations. Two of the four are most likely tributes to fellow pianists. The delicate Toshiko and a lovely line called Bill's Beauty. If vou have a warm spot for highly creative solo piano (I think this is often referred to as art, isn't it?) then this is a cd which will 'warm your art'! -Maxjazz, 2003; Playing time: 62:05, ****1/2 stars, George Fendel
All Alone - Reviewed by Jim Santella, all about jazz
Jessica Williams interprets our favorite standards like no other. She turns 'As Time Goes By' into a history lesson, with mental images from the film Casablanca and outside quotes to fill in the cracks. Irving Berlins'All Alone' takes on a similar role, as the pianists crisp right hand dances lightly to a simple stride left, in search of what has made a century of good music wear so well. Like this lush ballad, the album sashays easily through familiar music that cries out with happiness.
As Gene Kelly would dance casually down the street and sing merry songs to passers by, these gentle anthems make an impression on your soul.
'Dont Explain' carries the most weight, of course. Williams supplies her own interpretation, which explores the future as well as the past. A left hand recollection of the way we were merges naturally with a right hand thats thirsty for new adventures. The Mingus piece adds more thrills, and then Williams closes out the session with another pensive ballad.
The album captures the essence of the blues, but remains near and dear to the true purpose of improvised art: to create an entity upon which one can rely for inspiration. Four originals change the pace somewhat. Her 'The Sheikh' sizzles with an intensity and dramatic beauty not found elsewhere. The excitement rolls out like horsemen charging in all directions to spread the news. Most of the album, however, carries this message to the listener with a slower gait: one that ensures the music will arrive on time and in one piece.
Jim Santella, all about jazz
D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Newsletter
Jessica Williams - All Alone - 4 out of 4 - Sweet solo piano can be more enticing than a powerful orchestra when done well. This is the case on these dozen tunes. Jessica plays eight newly arranged classics along with four originals. There is a hint of stride, some romance and a lot of warmth. It's good enough to make you play it again and again.
Chris Spector, Midwest Record Recap
"All Alone" - on MAXJAZZ -
Back in the 70's, Williams made some truly compelling solo albums. After all this time and these changes, she's back to where she was then, with added wisdom, chops and clarity. It's a listening date that gives you all you came for and more.
With the kind of elegant simplicity that hallmarks these kind of dates from entries to classics, Williams gives it her all and piano fans will be amply rewarded simply by sitting down, shutting up and nodding appreciatively. -Volume 26, Number 9, March 14, 2003, MIDWEST RECORD RECAP, CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Jessica Williams' notes for "All Alone":
Alone, I meet myself. Without guile, ornament, or ego.
Ego seems to be the enemy of my art; overcoming it has been one of my major focuses.
I hear about new artists searching for and finding their 'voice'... my 'voice' sought and found me when I let go of my ego.
Letting the music play itself is the goal. I'm only as much of a pianist as I need to be to let it play unimpeded.
First and foremost, I facilitate the music. I'm a musician.
I'm not sure I'm a pianist at all. I don't really care.
What makes Miles or Monk different from today's super-technician is that distinction between musician and instrumentalist.
Miles made music when he walked.
Monk made music when he talked.
I've always wanted to be a musician.
Sometimes, all alone, I am.
-Jessica Williams, Dec 23, 02