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Songs for a New Century

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Album Review

She's a little bit late to release songs intended to kick off a new century, but Jessica Williams can be forgiven that as her music more than makes up for it. The album is actually titled as it is in celebration of Williams' emergence from a low time following the 9/11 attacks, and as such has a fairly upbeat tone throughout the proceedings. Aside from a stray Sonny Rollins composition (which Williams treats masterfully as a blues romp with some almost synth-like motifs thrown in), the compositions are all originals here, explorations of the interplay of sound and color (the color portion being a result of Williams' synesthesia). The album opens with "Empathy" in classic Williams form — a heavy influence of Bill Evans present of course. Using her own modifications to a piano, she then pulls the sparse sound of a steel-stringed koto out as an accompaniment in "Toshiko," but done without any other players or overdubs — she's actually extending the sound of the piano itself. "Fantasia" comes across as classical, with hints of what may be "Ave Maria" threaded into its passages, and "Song for a Baby" is a simple run that switches between more Bill Evans chordal jazz and fast little Chick Corea-esque arpeggios. She stretches out with suggestions of stride piano in "Lament," and moves to a tribute to Oscar Peterson that reverently includes much of his style. The arpeggios come hot and heavy in "Spoken Softly," a bit of club-ready piano, and the album finishes out with a casual, sing-songy "If Only." Williams is arguably one of the greatest pianists around today, with outstanding versatility and breadth of compositional skill on top. This album easily sits as exhibit A of that argument.


Born: 17 March 1948 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Due to her being based in northern California, Jessica Williams is a bit underrated, but (on evidence of her sets for Jazz Focus and Hep) she is one of the top jazz pianists of today. Williams is a powerful virtuoso whose complete control of the keyboard, wit, solid sense of swing, and the influence of Thelonious Monk have combined to make her a particularly notable player. She started taking piano lessons when she was four and was gigging as a teenager. Williams took extensive classical lessons...
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Top Albums and Songs by Jessica Williams

Songs for a New Century, Jessica Williams
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  • 8,91 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 15 April 2008

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