FREEDOM TRANE - Jessica Williams, piano, Mel Brown, drums, Dave Captein, bass. Recorded for OriginArts Records, in Monterey Bay, CA - THIS ALBUM IS AVAILABLE: BUY
1 The Seeker (Jessica Williams)
2 Lonnie's Lament (John Coltrane)
3 Freedom Street (Jessica Williams)
4 Paul's Pal (Sonny Rollins)
5 Prayer and Meditation (Jessica Williams)
6 Just Words (Jessica Williams)
7 Naima (John Coltrane)
8 Welcome (John Coltrane)
Total time 60.00 minutes
Jessica Williams piano / Dave Captein bass, Mel Brown drums
All compositions by Jessica Williams are published by JJWMusic ASCAP. All compositions by John Coltrane are published by JowCol Music BMI
Photo of Jessica Williams by Berit Bolt
Recorded direct to tape by Bob Stark
PRODUCED BY JESSICA WILLIAMS and JOHN BISHOP for ORIGIN RECORDS
Jessica Williams, Steinway B concert grand
Mel Brown plays drums
Dave Captein on the contrbass
"I want to thank the many people that continue to support my Music, buy my CDs, and attend my concerts. Because of you, I am still searching, seeking, and occasionally finding the Truth between, around, and within the notes (and the silence). It’s my greatest joy to share these illiminations of the soul with you." - Jessica Williams
For me, this New Year begins so well... yesterday I got NOW!!! and For John Coltrane in my mailbox. I hardly had time to immerse myself in the last two (Time to burn and The Gift) and now there's more and more. What I did, early this morning, was this: I started with For John Coltrane. I never learned to love Coltrane: McCoy is one of my all time favorite piano players, but Coltrane, I can't sing to it, that's one, I love to sing and hum to my CDs. It goes so much deeper than mainstream, from where it all started for me. I bought singer Karrin Allyson's "The ballad album of John Coltrane". But that, beautiful as it was, was a sort of translation for the layman. So I put on your CD and started to do my work. Until I had to stop. Stop, sit down and really LISTEN. The beauty leapt from the speakers. I recognized Naima, of course, but not much else. But I felt engulfed by the mood, the atmosphere, the sense of force and tranquility at the same time.
The sheer sense of beauty. The "sheets of notes", as the critics call them, do not attract me to Coltrane, at least not the four or five times I've tried. But I listen to your 5 originals and 3 Coltrane hits, and I think I hear your version of those sheets and they mesmerize me. I have the headphones on now... In the meantime your CD is on its fourth or fifth play and I think this is different from most of your other music. I am going to check with former Coltrane related tunes of yours. I just will let myself be engulfed and enjoy! And I'll let you know about the other CDs.
Thank you very much for all of this! - Buyer's Review by Kees Franc, a teacher and writer in Holland; 1.06.05
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane by AUDIOPHILE AUDITION Published on February 13, 2012
Jessica Williams – Freedom Trane – Origin 82589, 57:20 ****: (Jessica Williams, piano; Dave Captein, bass; Mel Brown, drums)
Jessica Williams has been steadily recording as a West Coast based jazz pianist since the mid-70s, but perhaps because she does not have East Coast publicity, has never received the acclaim she is due. She has a Monk-influenced intensity, and is equally at home interpreting both her own compositions, and playing both standards and lesser known pieces by other contemporary jazz masters.
On a 2007 recorded trio session, recently released by Origin Records, she explores the modal post bop spiritual side of John Coltrane. In her liner notes she explores the profound affect that Trane has had on both her musical and personal life. She aptly describes his influence as the “The Power of Love,” in which through her piano playing she can give to the world and receive back the goodness that is out there in the world, but can be elusive to find during these troubled times.
Freedom Trane is a mix of Coltrane’s better known tracks such as “Naima,” “Welcome,” and “Lonnie’s Lament” along with Jessica’s Trane-influenced tributes, “The Seeker,” “Prayer and Meditation,” and “Just Words” as well as the title track. Playing a Steinway at JW Sound Studios in Monterey, Ca. the acoustics are first rate and the “communication” between Jessica and Portland residents Dave Captein on bass, and the brilliant drummer, Mel Brown, is striking. Mel has recorded many times with Jessica, and their trio at Atwater’s in Portland with the legendary Leroy Vinnegar in the early 90s holds special meaning for me.
“The Seeker” opens the CD, and Jessica’s intensity and innate swing immediately honors Coltrane. Williams has a muscular touch on the keyboard and her fleet fingering with Mel Brown keeping pace, and a warm bottom end provided by Captein, brings out the spiritual power that Trane embodied. “Lonnie’s Lament” is deeply moving as it gently explores the introspective side of Coltrane. The title track follows and its bluesy jaunt has gospel overtones that inspire social progress through soul searching. “Paul’s Pal” written by Sonny Rollins and Coltrane lightens the mood for a bit and its swing is infectious. “Prayer and Meditation” were central to Coltrane’s being as expressed on “A Love Supreme” and here Williams mixes intensity with gorgeous ballad lines that show that the “search” does not have to be always somber.
Freedom Trane closes with two of John’s most famous compositions, “Naima,” and “Welcome” and Jessica is equal to the task of interpreting Trane sans saxophone, and is helped by Mel Brown’s cymbal work that cements the mood that John brought to the musical stage. Dave Captein also provides sympathetic backing that matches well with Williams’ interpretations. What a treasure we have with Jessica Williams. Come pay us a few more visits in Portland, Ms. Williams…
TrackList: The Seeker, Lonnie’s Lament, Freedom Trane, Paul’s Pal, Prayer and Meditation, Just Words, Naima, Welcome.
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane by John Frederick Moore, Jazziz, published Oct 16, 2011
Is Jessica Williams capable of a false step?
The pianist continues to put out one stellar recording after another, though without the fanfare that accompanies some of her peers. Her latest, a tribute to John Coltrane, is as soulful as anything she's recorded and just as elegant.
The eight tracks are evenly split between Williams originals and Coltrane classics. The opener, Williams' "The Seeker," plays like a Coltrane tune. Williams' thick block chords and gospel-like touches suggest Coltrane's favored pianist, McCoy Tyner; drummer Mel Lewis echoes Elvin Jones' thundering tom-tom rolls; while the meditative melody brings to mind Coltrane's "Crescent."
But it's certainly not all pastiche. The title track is a rollicking blues, while "just Words" is a graceful mid-tempo with a logical forward momentum. Of the four Coltrane songs, it's the ballads "Naima" and "Welcome" that shine brightest--the former bittersweet, the latter contemplative but with an underlying sense of uplift.
Williams is known for idiosyncratic touches such as inside-the-piano tricks and offbeat pedal effects. Here she plays it straight, letting the tunes themselves shine. That's not to say her technique is any less impressive. Her sense of dynamics is impeccable, she maintains clarity in her single-note passes in the highest registers, and her left hand goes beyond mere support, providing the contrast that puts the right-hand melody in greater relief. And there's the way she seamlessly shifts the melody to her left hand, as on her solo in "Paul's Pal."
In many ways, this is a typical Jessica Williams record. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
by John Frederick Moore, Jazziz
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane By JEFF WINBUSH, Published: February 11, 2012, All About Jazz
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 cerebral. Augmented on Freedom Trane by bassist Dave Captein and drummer Mel Brown, Williams shows off her ability to swing. Never loosing her impeccable sense of taste, Williams is downright frisky and playful on Coltrane and Sonny Rollins' "Paul's Pal" and, on the title track, she's bopping and grooving hard with Brown's timekeeping, which is right in the pocket. It's the sort of tune that demands another listen just as soon as it's over.
As a soloist in the trio format, Williams is simply incandescent and the musicians synchronize like a well-tuned machine. Freedom Trane is a homage to Coltrane's seminal A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), but Williams' goal is not to emulate what Trane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones did in 1964, but to expand upon it. "Prayer and Meditation," one of four Williams originals, fits comfortably with a lovingly rendered interpretation of Coltrane's "Naima," where the Steinway 'B' gently caresses like a warm touch. The lush and verdant "Welcome" closes out this super session.
Williams reveals in the liner notes how Coltrane speaks to her as she writes:
'John speaks through his horn: "no road is an easy one, but they all go back to God." God, for me, is us, all of us and everything; it's the sea and the sky and the stars. We are star-stuff, we are one vibration in a standing wave, and it doesn't matter if it's called God or Allah or Aum or Chi or Orgone. It's gravity and light-years and galaxies colliding and little kittens kittening and bodily love and that chill you get when you listen to great music or see a great painting or hear the sounds of the forest.'
Maybe not everything Williams says scans completely, but it's possible to hear her making her way on a spiritual journey, and Freedom Trane provides that special sort of chill that comes from hearing great music— and this is most definitely great music, made by a great (and sadly underrated artist). This is a high quality and highly recommended performance by Williams, a consummate musician of astonishing grace, passion and skill.
Track Listing: The Seeker; Lonnie's Lament; Freedom Trane; Paul's Pal; Prayer and Meditation; Just Words; Naima; Welcome
Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano; Dave Captein: bass; Mel Brown: drums
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams: Freedom Trane By DAN MCCLENAGHAN Published: April 15, 2011
Freedom Trane Origin Records 2011
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 Art Tatum, Tatum's Ultimatum (Red and Blue Records, 2008), signaled the incoming tide of change, her shift into a different dimension.
Back in the homage mode, Freedom Trane is Williams' reverent nod to the saxophonist John Coltrane. All of the previously mentioned recordings were solo outings, but the pianist gets back to trio format here, a territory she has explored in her own inimitable way, but never so well as she does with bassist Dave Captein and drummer Mel Brown, her most simpatico trio-mates since her work with bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Victor Lewis on Live at Yoshi's, Volume 1 (MaxJazz, 2004) and Volume 2 (MaxJazz, 2005).
Coltrane was a spiritual seeker. That was obvious with his contribution to trumpeter Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia Records, 1959), but much more so during his 1960s Impulse! label years. He was looking for God with his saxophone, and if he didn't find It, he came awfully close. Williams captures the essence of his spiritual quest and—with her enormous technical proficiency married to a flexible devil-may-care spontaneity, and an unmatched ability to get inside another artist's sound to push it forward with her own musical world view—has created the finest of Coltrane tributes.
Mixing Coltrane originals with her own compositions, Williams opens with her original, "The Seeker." A thunder rumble of drums leads into a majestically swirling sea of piano notes that flows into a current of forward momentum reminiscent of a Coltrane's classic Impulse! rhythm section, the pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison trinity, with Williams displaying a warp-speed, lighter-than-air right hand that floats delicate notes over a dense hard gravity attack of her left hand.
"Lonnie's Lament," is from the saxophonist's Crescent (Impulse!, 1964), one of his rather underrated albums, due in part because it came the same year as his masterpiece, A Love Supreme (Impulse!). It is a timeless sound, from Coltrane's classic quartet or from Williams' hands, as it becomes increasingly obvious that nobody out there can capture the very soul of the iconic saxophonist as well as she.
The Williams-penned title tune is the set's high-heat cooker, and is the "jazziest" tune here, while "Paul's Pal," co-written by Coltrane and fellow saxophonsit Sonny Rollins, struts along with its hat cocked at a rakish angle, a wry grin on its face.
Williams' "Prayer and Meditation" serves as a centerpiece to the CD, as it delves deeply into mid-1960s Coltrane spirituality as a Williams/Coltrane marriage of pensive, unadulterated beauty, before the pianist joins hands with "Naima," from Coltrane's breakout album, Giant Steps (Atlantic Records, 1960).
Williams ends the evening with Coltrane's impossibly gorgeous "Welcome," a solemn, holy, gentle, lush sound, like so much of what the pianist has been creating since she found her true voice.
Tracks: The Seeker; Lonnie's Lament; Freedom Trane; Paul's Pal; Prayer and Meditation; Just Words; Naima; Welcome.
Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano; Dave Captein: bass; Mel Brown: drums.
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams, "Freedom Trane" by Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
John Coltrane tributes are not hard to find in the jazz world, and different tributes will celebrate different periods of the saxophone innovator's career. Some tributes pay homage to Coltrane's hard bop period (as in &"Giant Steps," &"Moment's Notice," and &"Lazy Bird"), others pay homage to his modal post-bop period of roughly 1960-1964, and some pay homage to his radically avant-garde free jazz period of 1965-1967 (the last few years of his life).
Jessica Williams' Freedom Trane, it turns out, is essentially a tribute to modal post-bop Coltrane on Atlantic and Impulse, and the acoustic pianist leads an intimate trio that employs Dave Captein on upright bass and Mel Brown on drums.
The thing that separates Freedom Trane from many of the other tributes to modal post-bop Coltrane is the fact that Williams offers a combination of familiar Coltrane compositions and original material. She puts a piano-trio spin on the Coltrane pieces "Naima," "Lonnie's Lament," and "Welcome," but she also plays four original compositions that are mindful of Coltrane's modal period -- "The Seeker," "Just Words," "Prayer and Meditation," and the title track -- and she demonstrates that a session can be Coltrane-minded even without the presence of a saxophonist.
That said, Williams never allows her own personality to become obscured on Freedom Trane; this date always sounds like a Jessica Williams project even though she is fondly remembering the contributions of an iconic jazz master. And one of the ways in which Williams fondly remembers Coltrane is by celebrating the spiritual aspects of his playing and composing. It's no secret that Coltrane was greatly influenced by eastern religion in the '60s; Williams is obviously well aware of that fact, and in the CD's liner notes, she writes, "Right now, John's beautiful album, A Love Supreme (on Impulse), is on my CD player. I've lit a few candles and am burning some incense."
And that imagery from Williams really speaks volumes about the way she identifies with Coltrane's spirituality on Freedom Trane, which finds the pianist in consistently excellent form.
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams, "Freedom Trane" by OregonMusicNews.com
How can two hands playing piano sound like John Coltrane playing saxophone. Jessica Williams' do. The number of albums she has recorded over a stellar thirty-five year career is astounding. Her last album Touch is in Dan McClenaghan's Top Ten for 2010 on AllAboutJazz – AND Scott Yanow's Top Ten for 2010 in JazzTimes.
And who do we find her playing with? Portland musicians: drummer Mel Brown and bassist Dave Captein.
The album. recorded in 2007 and released this week, is made up of tunes by Coltrane and for Coltrane composed by Williams. She says, ""John Coltrane has been my light through the darkness. When there are questions, I'll ask 'what would Philly Joe Jones or Dexter Gordon do'; but when things get REALLY weird, I can ask the 'Trane."
MUSIC REVIEW BY DOUG RAMSEY
Jessica Williams, Freedom Trane (Origin). The pianist has concentrated on solo performance lately but returns to the trio format by way of this paean to John Coltrane. Accompanied by bassist Dave Captein and drummer Mel Brown, Williams explores four pieces by Coltrane and four of her own that pay tribute to the man she has long acknowledged as a major musical and spiritual inspiration. In her notes, she calls him "my light through the darkness." There is no darkness in the title tune, indeed none anywhere in this sunny album, which has stunning pianism, great rapport among the musicians and a powerful, affecting "Naima."
MUSIC REVIEW: Jessica Williams, "Freedom Trane" by Tom Ineck, Berman Music
Ever since the death of John Coltrane more than 40 years ago, jazz musicians of every ilk have attempted to get at the core of his sound, the key to its immutable power and transcendent spirit. Aside from Coltrane bandmate McCoy Tyner, perhaps Jessica Williams on Freedom Trane comes as close to the source as a piano player is likely to get.
Four of the eight tunes come from the Coltrane songbook, but the other half were written by Williams, a very effective way for her to personalize her homage to the master while avoiding the urge to simply repeat his ideas. "The Seeker" states explicitly an admirer's search for an answer to the riddle that is Coltrane. It echoes many of the familiar themes but allows Williams to stretch her formidable talents to create something new.
Coltrane's dirge, "Lonnie's Lament," is given a respectful treatment, with especially sensitive support by bassist Dave Captein on both bowed and pizzicato bass and drummer Mel Brown on both mallets and brushes. With such reliable colleagues, Williams is free to explore keyboard harmonies and single-note excursions. The title track is a gospel-tinged original that steams along the track like the proverbial, well-oiled locomotive. Coltrane and Sonny Rollins co-wrote "Paul's Pal," a playful melody that has Williams whimsically repeating notes, phrases and variations until the listener is bound to smile with delight.
Perhaps most telling of all is the ballad "Prayer and Meditation," Williams' expression of the spiritual essence that was so central to Coltrane's life. In her ringing chords and searching flights into the keyboards upper reaches, she successfully reveals the secret that has thwarted so many. Her composition "Just Words" follows with some bluesy reflections. "Naima," easily the most familiar tune here, is done with great care and precision—beginning in a ballad tempo, moving to mid-tempo swing and back again—allowing the pianist a wide scope of solo variations. Williams finishes with Coltrane's exquisite 1965 composition "Welcome," another spiritual exploration given a finely-wrought, shimmering solo piano performance by Williams.
A legendary player in the Bay Area and in Seattle with nearly 40 recordings as a leader, Williams is virtually, and sadly, unknown to folks who never venture to the West Coast. Like Coltrane, her performances are electrifying, even transcendent, as she merges technical prowess, sheer power, confidence and range of emotion to create an exciting concert experience. In this sense, "The Seeker" was a logical choice for her latest release. Recorded in December 2007, it remains a mystery why it was not released until March 2011. We hope her next project is not so long in fruition.
Artist's Personal Review of this CD: