Generally, jazz pianists that I hear fall into one of two musical categories: those who work mostly within the repertoire and styles of traditional jazz playing, and those who tend to wander off on a quest for their own unique musical identity. In my view, surpassing these categories is a true sign of musical greatness.
Veteran pianist Jessica Williams
indeed possesses such greatness, and when aided by the likes of Ray Drummond and Victor Lewis, she moves into the category of genius. Williams' latest effort, "Live at Yoshi's, Volume One"
, is a part of the MaxJazz Piano Series and provides aural evidence that creative sparks were indeed flying on the nights of July 9 and 10, 2003.
It's difficult to pick a "highlight" from this CD, but the opening cut, a clever and swinging arrangement of the old chestnut "I'm Confessin' That I Love You", and Jessica's energetic and heavily Monk-ified reading of "Mysterioso" particularly stood out for me.
Lovers of traditional jazz piano will find a great deal to admire in Williams' work: a great choice of material, intelligent usage of familiar jazz devices, hard-swinging and melodic interaction with her trio, and improvisations filled with shades of past piano masters like Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, and Eroll Garner. Yet she retains her own uniqueness in the way that she takes recognizable motifs and blends them together to create highly-personalized and brilliant solos.
Since this is "Volume One" of this concert, then there must be a "Volume Two" coming up shortly in the near future. I've already made a note to bag a copy whenever it's available. And I'd advise you to pick up "Live At Yoshi's, Volume One" now.