THE VICTORIA CONCERT - Jessica Williams, solo piano, live at the University of Victoria Auditorium - Recorded by Jim Wilke
1 Mr. Syms
2 I Want To Be Happy
3 Sometimes Silence
4 My One And Only
5 Straight, No Chaser
6 Willow Weep for Me
7 Dear Gaylord
8 Blue Tuesday
9 Dedicated To You
Total time- 68.02 | Photo of Jessica Williams by Elaine Arc
Four and a half ****1/2 stars in Downbeat Magazine
'Something that gets overlooked in the constant rehash of the modern mainstream is that its formative voices were trying to get closer to roots, whether it was Silver and Timmons' emphasis on gospel sources, or Davis and Coltrane's emphasis on scales and modes. That value is explicit in Jessica Williams' playing which is pitched very close to the heart of Jazz piano, even when it's exploratory. It's her roots that make her forays into Monk and Evans so much more convincing than most current pianists. Highly recommended.' -Stuart Bloomer, Cadence Magazine
Review by Lyle Rebbeck, Medicine Hat Jazz Society: Even though this CD has been in and out of my player all week, I sat down tonight, at the end of a busy day, plugged in the head phones, and listened from beginning to end - all 68 minutes. No computer in front of me - no biographical notes. Just the music. And it was magical.
This live recording gives us a glimpse inside the incredible creative heart and mind of pianist Jessica Williams.
Jessica has been around the jazz world, playing and recording with many of the great players from Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey to Charlie Rouse. But, as Jessica shows on this CD, she needs no other credits than her own performance.
In Jessic's hands, familiar jazz melodies become three dimensional - she holds them up in front of us, and rotates them, probing untouched corners, and allowing her musical ideas to bounce like light on an irregular shaped surface.
These melodies, in fact, become doorways. Doorways that lead, eventually, all to the same place; that vast and ineffable landscape of Jessica Williams's creative imagination. At times, one wonders how the original tune could become so transformed.
Her 15 minute version of Straight No Chaser is a case in point, that slides through numerous stylistic moods, many of them miles from either Monk, or the blues. And yet, she ties it together in a way that makes it seem like a logical journey, and at no time is the tune ignored or compromised. But rather, she seems to be searching every nook of the tune for all possible implications.
Jessica covers a number of standard tunes, including I Want to be Happy, Willow Weep for Me and Coltran's, Mr. Syms, as well as three originals. She handles the formidable task of solo jazz piano with complete domination, sliding seamlessly from stride to walking bass lines to Shearing-type chordal movement.
Two tunes stand out for me. One is Williams's own, Blue Tuesday. The head is not particularly memorable. But what makes this modal blues one of the CDs truly wonderful moments is Jessic's incredible, probing solo. A pedal bass serves as the background for her fanciful roving flights of right hand work. I love the descending lines that bite against the pedal harmonies.
The track that I would buy the whole CD for is the ballad, My One and Only Love that Jessica says she learned from Coltrane's ballads album. Jessica shows us the depths of her sensitivity. She hears the way this tune breaths, and follows its every beckoning. She plays with it like a curious foal exploring a spring pasture.
The recording quality on this CD is excellent. -Lyle Rebbeck, Medicine Hat Jazz Society
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