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The Real Deal

Scott Yanow, Author, The All Music Guide; in the September, 2004 issue of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene

Reviewed: Jessica Williams, The Real Deal (Hep Records)

The Real Deal

A brilliant pianist who can apparently play anything that comes into her mind, Jessica Williams has been one of the giants for nearly 20 years, ever since she reached a high level in the mid-1980s. She never lets her virtuosity rule the music nor are her solos overcrowded or overly dense; she lets the music breathe. Her wit and constant sense of swing make her performances accessible yet other pianists must at times wonder how she thought of (much less played) a particular phrase.

Jessica Williams has recorded quite a few albums by now, and none are unworthy. The Real Deal, her fifth outing for the Scottish Hep label, is a solo recital. Among the standards that she explores are "Misty" (during which she purposely hints at Erroll Garner), "Morning Of The Carnival" (inspired by hearing Kenny Barron play the Brazilian classic), an unusual version of "Petite Fleur" that is played entirely on the extreme upper register of the piano, an inventive transformation of "If I Should Lose You," "My Romance" and "Don't Blame Me."

Long one of the top interpreters of Thelonious Monk's music, Jessica Williams' solo version of "Friday The 13th" uses a Monkish pattern in her left-hand while her right flies freely. She also performs a thoughtful version of "'Round Midnight," a rare rendition of Monk's obscure "Teo," a version of "Sweet And Lovely" that is similar to Thelonious' and two originals ("To Thelonious with Love" and "Out And Out Blues") that are dedicated to the late pianist-composer.

There are no throwaway tracks on this set, nor are there any Jessica Williams CDs that should be overlooked. The Real Deal lives up to its name and it serves as a perfect introduction to the pianist's playing. - Scott Yanow, Author, The All Music Guide


Dave Gelly, Sunday June 13, 2004 The London Observer: Jessica Williams, The Real Deal (Hep 2086)

Jessica Williams is always at her best when playing solo piano, as she does here. Her ideas are so mercurial and her technique so complete that she needs all the space she can get.

On this set of a dozen improvisations, recorded at home on her own piano, she displays all the invention and gentle wit that her admirers value and which the wider jazz audience has yet to discover. She has such a broad stylistic range that it is impossible to talk about a 'typical' Williams piece.

The material here, for instance, ranges from Thelonious Monk to Sidney Bechet, plus a couple of her own compositions, and each number has a distinct and singular flavour. If you have yet to meet Jessica Williams, this would be a good place to do so. -Dave Gelly, The London Observer


Steve Millward, The Manchester News

Pianist Jessica Williams pulls out all the stops on this solo album, recorded in her own home during autumn 2000.

Though influenced by Thelonious Monk, she has the musical strength of character to employ his ideas and structures without being subjugated by them. Her version of his seldom-played Teo, for example, is a particularly delightful blend of gravitas and whimsy.

An exquisite My Romance and an anarchic Sweet And Lovely are equally absorbing but in truth Williams's creativity never wanes throughout the 70 minutes' worth of playing time.

Seldom has a record been more aptly titled.

-Steve Millward, The Manchester News