2 I'm in the Mood for Love - Fields, McHugh
3 Impressions of Spain - Jessica Williams
4 Will o' the Wisp - deFella
5 Red Top (Jessica at the Hammond B-3)
6 Lulu's Back in Town - Warren, Dubin
7 I Fall in Love too Easily - Cahn, Styne
8 Bye Bye Blackbird
9 Mandela's Dream -Jessica Williams
Total time 65 minutes | Jessica Williams, live, solo piano, B3 Hammond organ on Red Top | Recorded by Jim Wilke for Red and Blue
Limited Edition Besteller
George Fendel of Jazzscene Magazine gives this CD four and a half stars
"It's no secret that Jessica Williams is one of the more versatile and astonishing pianists out there. Her repertoire samples pop tunes, bop banners, intriguing originals and always a surprise or two. All this and more is yours on a riveting solo performance at Seattle's Jazz Alley. For the record, the standards include I'm In The Mood For Love, I Fall In Love Too Easily, Bye Bye Blackbird and the two surprises, Lulu's Back In Town and a Hammond B-3 performance of the old swing classic, Red Top."
Liner notes by Jessica Williams
JAZZ ALLEY is a jazz supper-club in Seattle, Washington, and it remains one of the few 'civilized' club venues in America. I've stopped playing clubs, mainly because I've found that the distractions (inattentive audiences, alcohol consumption, idle chatter, drink blenders, clinking glasses, club-owners, etc.) do not lend themselves well to the making of good music, most particularly when the musician happens to be me.
I enjoy working alone, solo; the subtleties and silences in my music tend not to flourish in an environment that is primarily a gathering-place for thrill-seekers. I continue to play at Jazz Alley for a few simple and sane reasons: the crowds (and we do pray for crowds, don't we?) are composed of serious, knowledgeable jazz lovers, folks in attendance for a memorable musical experience; the venue is built for listening in that it's equipped with a fine sound-system and has good lines-of-sight for several hundred people; the owner, John Dimitriou, is a dedicated jazz aficionado and supporter, and a not-unreasonable fellow when it comes to providing musicians proper compensation and hospitality; and finally, I like Seattle and Seattle seems, in the main, to like me. I always seem to know many audience members as acquaintances or friends, and I try to give them something new at each performance.
Usually, I'll arrange to have my performance recorded, and this service is always rendered with complete professionalism and expertise by Jim Wilke, a good friend, a jazz radio-host with a to-die-for voice, and a man with a deep love for the music. He also has an indescribable talent for recording 'live' music so unobtrusively that the musicians forget that they're being recorded. This is invaluable in that Jim catches things on tape that mostly would be lost in the air. It's almost a surprise to have him hand me a DAT tape at the conclusion of the evening.
All of the music included here was recorded by Jim, at the Alley, on three separate gigs, on the same piano, with warm and enthusiastic crowds each time. If the crowds sounds small on the recording, it's because (thankfully) Jim records the MUSIC and not the audience...he records the piano with "close-miking", a technique I prefer, as I love to hear all of the sounds the piano makes: the hammers striking the strings, the sound of the pedals, my footwork, my breathing on certain phrases, even the occasional creaking of the entire instrument when I play stride. You get to hear exactly what I hear when I'm on the stage. If there IS a conversation going on somewhere in the club, you won't hear it here!
So that's the setting. Dark, yes, but not overly so. It stays light until 10pm in Seattle. Quiet, but not uptight. Laid-back and comfortable. A few forks hitting plates. Balcony half-full. Just me and my music and my friends and neighbors. No matter how big (or small) an audience is, that's the way it feels to me.
When I finally walk over to the instrument and seat myself, you'll often hear me remark, "I'm home."
And I really am.
THE SHIEKH is a tune I wrote for my friend and musical associate, Mr Leroy Vinnegar. Of all the tunes I've written, it seems to be the most-often requested. I'm very pleased with this version, and I've played quite a few versions, believe me. I know I've written a good one when I never get tired of playing it. When Ray Bryant heard me playing it, his first remark was "what the hell was THAT? I like that!" I have to send Ray a copy of this CD. And, of course, likewise for Leroy. He inspired this piece in the first place with his gentle power and stately presence.
I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is played in personal tribute to Errol Garner. I love his humor and his time-sense and his ability to swing the slowest tempos in a manner that no other pianist has been able to duplicate. I do my patented crosshand thing here, and just have a generally fun time with this tune.
IMPRESSIONS OF SPAIN | WILL O' THE WISP is a reflective, two-part vehicle that I've always wanted to record. The first (rubato) section is pure improv, my own impressions of a country that I've played in only once but have a special fondness for; the people, the food, the music, the art, the sky, the passionate essence. The second section is a tune I picked up from Miles' Sketches of Spain album. As it begins (so quietly) I still hear the castanets and the lonely sound of Miles, even though I'm all alone at the piano. Someday I'll get back to Spain.
RED TOP is a blues-but WHAT'S THIS? Doesn't sound like piano! Truth is, there was a funky old Hammond B-3 (with pedals) just languishing on-stage, cajoling and daring me to play it. Challenging me to see if I could still walk those pedals and shift those drawbars and make it swing. This particular organ had bacon grease dripping from its innards; I "fired it up" and had great fun cooking. If there's a quality I possess that I unreservedly approve of, it's my willingness to risk total melt-down on stage, just to see how far I can stretch myself. Here, I emerge relatively unscathed. That foot still knew where to go and how to get there!
LULU'S BACK IN TOWN is motion and stride and more risk-taking. I like the intro. I can't tell you about it. It serves no purpose, has no function, even borders on illogic. I like it. What can I say? You'll have to listen to it. I can't explain it.
I FALL IN LOVE TOO EASILY is a personal favorite. I'm glad that I avoided any sequential time-feel here. I just explored the borders of the tune and occasionally exceeded them. Beauty is Truth.
BYE BYE BLACKBIRD pays homage to Miles and Red Garland. This is a tune I almost never play (or almost always avoid!) but this version grabbed me sufficiently to warrant its inclusion in this collection. Historians, please note: beginning and ending and quite a few elements of the middle are direct quotes from Miles' version on the Columbia release 'Round Midnight.
Finally, MANDELA'S DREAM is something I wrote in honor of the Man For All Seasons. May we all possess such courage and will in times of insanity. (If the intro and ending sound even a little bit like an African thumb-piano, I achieved my intention.)
As I continue to grow musically and spiritually, I feel an ever-increasing need to thank the people that have supported me in my life-pursuits. Don't worry...you won't have to suffer through a long and (to you) meaningless list of friends, relatives, producers, pets, deities, road-managers and music promoters. Life is too short, and the less clutter, the better. I just feel a need to thank YOU, one of the people in my audience, whether it be real-time or digital. Without you, I might be taking orders at some Burger King somewhere (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that this is so much more FUN), or typing furiously at a computer (wait a minute...that's exactly what I'm doing this very minute)... In other words, thank you for just what you're doing right now; reading my liner notes and listening to my music. You're helping me to have a great life...l sincerely hope you're having one also!
JESSICA WILLIAMS, July 5, 1999, California
IT'S JESSICA'S TlME --Jessica Williams 'live' at Jazz Alley in Seattle -Jessica Williams, solo piano (and Hammond B-3 organ on trk #4) recorded live and direct to digital 2 trk by Jim Wilke at Jazz Alley, Seattle, WA--trks 1,2,3 recorded on June 19,1999 ---trks 4,5,6 recorded on Aug 6, 1998 ---trks 7,8 recorded unknown date, probably in late 1997
Digital mastering by Rainer Gembalczyk, Sienna Digital, San Mateo, CA. Cover photo by E Arc, cover design by Jessica Williams, artistic assistance by Elaine Arc. Total time: 59:45. ©1999 Red and Blue Records
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