By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Songs of Earth
Pianist/composer Jessica Williams is an elite musicians who is so well known that she needs little introductory or background verbiage to inflate reviews of her albums. Like many pianists, she began her studies with the classics and switched to jazz during her teens. Unlike most beginners, however — who start out playing with unknowns — Williams was associated with icons from the get-go; her first group was headed by Miles Davis drummer Philly Joe Jones. Further jobs were with Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz.
Williams is prolific; during a career of more than four decades, she has been featured on at least one album per year.
Her style has matured during this period; she has moved from bop-oriented traditional jazz to a more serious, concert hall genre. Most of what she plays today is in a solo setting, rather than with combos. She also composes extensively, and she now concentrates on her own work rather than that of other composers. Six of this album's seven tracks are her originals; the sole exception is John Coltrane’s "To Be."
These compositions aren't scripted on a note-by-note basis, nor are they played as pre-rehearsed melodic lines; they're improvisations of melodies or themes that have “come to her.” They're based on events or individuals — not always human; one is inspired by her Boston Terrier — that are, or have been, important in her life.
Whatever the catalyst, this is music to sit back and enjoy: whether at a concert or, in this case, in your own music room. This album is gorgeous and, as Williams hopes, it will bring you joy.