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An Interview with Jessica Williams
By Fred Jung
There are too many things wrong with the music in this day and age, like the horrific and often blatant commercialization and the adverse bias of the media, that to speak of it only leads me to a headache and more often than not, heartache.
But there are some things right with the music, and Jessica Williams is definitely one.
For those of you who are not hip to her, I will say on record that I think she is the finest pianist of our time.
Her spirituality and obvious love for her craft is inspiring to me.
And her records are bar none, the most consistently immaculate and for your hard-earned dollars, a Jessica Williams album is a no brainer.
In my opinion, sixteen bucks was never more well spent.
The preface that I must inform you on is that Jessica Williams is anything but commercial and her shyness for the spotlight is so rare that she stands alone.
The pianist so deplores the over hyping of the music that she has formed her own label, Jessica Williams Music, and has just recently two wonderfully creative and evocative releases, IT'S JESSICA'S TIME, a solo piano performance recorded live at Seattle's Jazz Alley and SOME BALLADS SOME BLUES, a studio recording with her new trio of drummer Mel Brown and bassist Dave Captein.
The proof is in the pudding and Jessica's approach is so anti-establishment that it is revolutionary.
Her new CDs can only be purchased off of her website, that she created herself, thus insuring that her fans only through her and not some nickel and dime distributor that is willing to make a cheap buck at the public's expense.
I have lost sleep debating over whether I should even publish this CONVERSATION or not, but Jessica is such a noble soul that any publicity that I can shed on her spiritually touching work, well, then I am a better man for it and my mother always taught me to strive to be a better man.
So check out this interview and perhaps you too will be inspired as I was and you too will yearn to be a guest on her website jessicawilliams.com. As always, I bring it to you unedited and in her own words (look out for the second volume of MY CONVERSATION WITH JESSICA WILLIAMS to come to you next year. - Fred Jung
JW: Fred, I don't much like doing interviews.
FJ: (Laughing) I can more than empathize with that opinion. I am looking very forward to your explanation as to why?
JW: To talk about music is so personal and so spiritual. It's like talking about religion or something. People always get in fights, right? I'm not in the best place to do interviews right now. Towards the end of March or April, I'll probably be spunky and talk your ear off.
FJ: I respect your wishes and will honor them, but there are a couple of things I wanted to ask you about. In particular, your new record label, Jessica Williams Music, and the two albums that you have just released on the label, IT'S JESSICA'S TIME and SOME BALLADS SOME BLUES.
JW: The only thing is, those records are not being played on any radio station. They are not available at any record stores.
FJ: They are only available online?
JW: They are available only from my website (www.jessicawilliams.com). Consequently, I haven't been sending them out, either for reviews, I just received an email from a radio station in Portland, Oregon that wanted both of them for air play and I just can't. I don't want the radio stations playing a record that nobody can get. I know they are not going to say, "Jessica Williams.com" and the numbers and everything.
FJ: I am certain I am not the only fan you have.
JW: God, Fred, they are so beautiful. The people, God, I can't believe it, are like this family. Since I have had this website up, and as you know, Fred, I am writing the html myself. That's how I quit smoking.
FJ: (Laughing) That has to be the most inventive no smoking program I have ever heard.
JW: No, I quit smoking three weeks ago. I found out the big web designer's secret. The web designer secret is, almost anybody can do it. That's' why they are charging you exorbitant amounts of money. It's because they know that very soon, everybody's going to catch on and they're going to be out of business. But the site that is up now, I designed myself. I don't have music files yet, but there will be music files.
FJ: IT'S JESSICA'S TIME was recorded live at Seattle's Jazz Alley.
JW: And SOME BALLADS SOME BLUES, which is not even old. It's like three months old. SOME BALLADS SOME BLUES is probably my favorite out of all the records that I've made. It's just like, it's not because it's on my own record label, but because it's one I listen to the most. It's the one that I feel is the most centered. I've really, there's this interview with Keith Jarrett. I think it's in TIME Magazine this week and it says, because he was sick with chronic fatigue, "that I was so exhausted that I didn't have any energy to try to be hip." He just said he just made his favorite record. That's kind of about how I feel about this record. I got so tired after twenty-five years of trying to be hip and fast and this and that, I was starting to feel like a gunslinger and I just let myself do exactly what I wanted. I didn't have any record producers to try and please. I didn't have any market niches to try to fill and that's why it just is what it is. It's pure, without makeup.
FJ: That's with Mel Brown.
JW: And Dave Captein.
FJ: That's your new trio.
JW: Yeah. I have had it for oh, I'd say three years, four years. I love those guys.
FJ: Well, your last trio of Dick Berk and Jeff Johnson was not too shabby.
JW: I love those guys too. I haven't seen Dick for awhile, but I talk to Jeff all the time.
FJ: I wish you only the best. Your voice is radiant.
JW: Thank you, Fred. Well, you ain't heard nothing yet (laughing).
FJ: I would expect nothing less from you.
JW: Thank you.
FJ: I will wait on pins and needles to conclude our CONVERSATION. I hope that your journey until our reunion is a blessed one.
JW: Oh, it will, Fred. It's all positive. It's kind of a vision quest thing. It's not like anything that too many Western people ever do, so I don't know how to describe what I'm doing. It's just really important to me. I just need to go away for awhile and then come back and do the next step.
I never do epilogues. But with this CONVERSATION I will break precedent.
I ask all readers to email Jessica at jessicawilliams.com and give her your thoughts and express your concerns and good wishes and let's all support her in her journey.
Also, Gene Harris has sadly fallen ill. Let's all express to Gene, his wife, and his family our support. Log onto Concord Records and email them with your good wishes or mail your letters and cards to Concord Records and they will forward it accordingly. We've lost so many voices this year. All my best.