Jessica WilliamsView in iTunes
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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 but also gigged with Philly Joe Jones in Philadelphia before moving to San Francisco in 1977. She was the house pianist at Keystone Korner for a time and made a few interesting recordings (some as Jessica Jennifer Williams) during the period, sometimes utilizing electronics. Although she appeared on Charlie Rouse's final record and gigged steadily, Williams was largely off record (outside of her own private Quanta label) until re-emerging in the late '80s as a brilliant solo acoustic player. She is a giant whose many dates for Jazz Focus (five of its first ten releases feature Williams) and Hep are consistently brilliant. ~ Scott Yanow