Influenced by Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Abbey Lincoln (among others), the honey-voiced Patrice Williamson is a jazz singer who developed a small following in the Boston area in the '90s. Williamson, like many jazz vocalists, interprets a lot of pop and Broadway standards from the '30s, '40s, and '50s; however, she has occasionally provided jazz interpretations of soul and urban contemporary hits (including Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" and Anita Baker's "Good Enough"). Although Williamson is best known in New England, she is not from that part of the United States originally. Williamson grew up in Memphis, TN, where her interest in different types of music was encouraged by her late father Webster F. Williamson (b. 1929, d. 1997). Patrice Williamson's gospel-singing father was a pillar in a Baptist church, and he encouraged her to listen to gospel as well as jazz and traditional pre-rock pop. As a pre-teen, she studied three instruments (piano, violin and flute), but eventually, singing became her primary focus. When the time came for Williamson to attend college, she didn't study music; not at first, that is.
Williamson entered the University of Tennessee (UT for short) as a communications major, but when she was a sophomore, Williamson decided against pursuing a career in broadcasting and opted to change her major to music. At first, she was worried about how her parents would take the news, but in fact, they were supportive of her decision. For a few years, Williamson thought she would pursue a career as a classical instrumentalist. But when the conductor of the UT Studio Jazz Orchestra heard her scat singing, he encouraged her to seriously pursue jazz singing. Another person at UT who urged Williamson to sing jazz was pianist Donald Brown; getting a lot of encouragement from Brown, she moved to Boston in 1992 to attend the New England Conservatory (where she studied with jazz singer Dominique Eade). In the mid-'90s, Williamson became quite active on the Boston jazz scene, and by the end of the decade, she had started recording. In 1998, Williamson released her self-produced debut album, My Shining Hour, on her own label, River Lily Records. Williamson, whose label is named after her mother Lillie Rivers Williamson, dedicated My Shining Hour to the memory of her father (who had died in 1997). In 2002, Williamson recorded and co-produced her second album, Free to Dream, which she also released on River Lily. ~ Alex Henderson