Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer

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I must be a romantic, because I love melodies.

The old songs such as "My Foolish Heart", "Moonglow", and "April in Paris" are wonderful examples of how strong melodies can last across centuries. Playing standards and old-time melodies is good for us, but making our own music, original, from our hearts, that's the only way we will become known and remembered. Write a melody that lasts centuries. That's our assignment.

When I wrote tunes, I started with melodies. My chords were always dense and perhaps a little mystifying to some of the artists I worked for and with, but I heard it all before I ever wrote a note.

After a time, I let go of all my bands, even the good ones. Except for my amazing drummer, Mel Brown, I never wanted them on board, and finally everyone was "cut loose" so that they could do their own thing. Jeff Johnson played incredibly for me, and Dave Captein was one of the best bassists I ever played with. Twenty-five years ago, I played with John Wiitala, and he also was a fine bassist in San Francisco.

But time changes all things, and a true musician doesn't follow their friendships, habits, rules and regulations. Jazz still had too many of those for me.

I had to write my compositions on my own.

If I did play a standard, it was never the same twice, and it often fell into different rhythms and different passages that changed with time, as I grew to trust my own vision, and share it with the people who came to enjoy hearing and experiencing the unknown. I was exploring strange and beautiful new worlds with them, and it was unknown territory, even for me. I never stopped looking for the new!

To be memorable, music needs a vision. My music was driven by a singular vision, mine.

Even us women have visions, and it's my pleasure to watch as young girls and women take to the stage and tell their own stories, different as they may be.

Any vision can change, and either become more or less effective at communicating what we want to hear at this or that time in our lives.

I hear rhythms too, and I hear beats. I even use loops in Apple's Logic ProX. I hear soul music, suffused with good melodic sense, and harmonies that are simple-sounding but very hypnotic. Even if it's a dirge, a classical-sounding piece I wrote, or some simple 16-bar ditty that sticks in one's head like glue.

I learned XHTML to build my own web sites. I coded pretty well, until machine-code became so complex.

The music software is wonderful, and I can play drums, bass, guitar, horn parts, solos, and maybe an electronic piano or B-3 or C-3 "Oakland" Hammond Organ. I can hear all the parts, before I ever write down anything, and then I can take it apart and examine the pieces of it, one by one.

When I listen to Mozart, I hear many melodies, all strong, all woven together intimately, to form a seamless rhythmic and tonal mix of an incredibly diverse imagination. A person with vision will always be identifiable by the effortless array of imagined functions turned real, as if by Magic.

Magic is really what this is about for me. I am a listener right now. I listen to Doris Day quite a bit, and not for the saxophone solos, but for the breathy, sensual delight of her voice. I learned to sing from her, and also from Ella Fitzgerald. Their ranges were similar at one time, and Doris studied with Ella for a time —their friendship became a "mutual admiration society of two."

Doris had a terrible experience with Love . . . the man she had married, in collusion with her agent, stole many millions of dollars. She found herself alone, drowning in debt, owing millions. But she did not stop, and neither did I, and nor does any woman with a gift, and the drive to express it.

Most good music is also functional. It can be used for many things. Mozart is a favorite for studying ("cramming") for exams. I suggest that this song may even be used on certain mild depressions. It certainly beats taking Big Pharma drugs.

Here's an example of a song that I use a lot:

Doris Day sings, "Everybody Loves a Loveroff site". And we all loved you, Doris.

She was 97 when she passed, and her legacy survives, and will do so for a long time. Her Pet Hospital and Rescue also thrives, in Carmel, California, near Capitola, where I lived for so many years.

I really feel so close to her, as she was and is a role-model for so many women. Her lovely voice is so welcome to my ears.

Every day, for many years now, I have studied operatic and popular Voice techniques. I work on my resonance, pitch, tone, warmth, and proprioception — and usually, I begin and end with Doris.

My boyfriend calls his car Doris.

 

I have decided that an occasional word or two (or millions) will keep my aging brain active. It's most likely the size of a walnut at this point. So I am going to start writing again occasionally, as my health gradually returns. Between the Top Docs and the drugs they prescribed for me, I need to titrate (lower) dosages of prednisone until I'm back to reality. Prednisone is a wonder drug, and I do wonder how long it will take to get off of it, but I carry the gene from my Mother for PMR, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, a form of crippling arthritis. If I titrate slowly enough, I may not have to suffer as she did.

I will, hopefully, continue to write a bit of music.

I will also write down whatever words I think some people will enjoy, and will talk about "curiosities", X-Men, X-Women, Wolverine, Tony Stark, Dark Phoenixes, and the death of poor Mystique (Raven). Jean killed her. When someone touches one of my role-models, namely the actress, Jennifer Lawrence, it hurts. I cried.

You might say to yourself, "Does anyone really read this stuff?

I ask myself that also!

As Salieri, the Court Composer once complained . . .

"Too many notes, Mozartoff site."

Too many words, Jessica.

To continue reading this thing that may be a book, see more here

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The rest of my stories will be found in my repository for "really new" writings:

http://www.jessicawilliams.com/currents/index.html

 

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