Jessica Williams – Freedom Trane – Origin 82589, 57:20 ****:
(Jessica Williams, piano; Dave Captein, bass; Mel Brown, drums)
Jessica Williams has been steadily recording as a West Coast based jazz pianist since the mid-70s, but perhaps because she does not have East Coast publicity, has never received the acclaim she is due. She has a Monk-influenced intensity, and is equally at home interpreting both her own compositions, and playing both standards and lesser known pieces by other contemporary jazz masters.
On a 2007 recorded trio session, recently released by Origin Records, she explores the modal post bop spiritual side of John Coltrane. In her liner notes she explores the profound affect that Trane has had on both her musical and personal life. She aptly describes his influence as the “The Power of Love,” in which through her piano playing she can give to the world and receive back the goodness that is out there in the world, but can be elusive to find during these troubled times.
Freedom Trane is a mix of Coltrane’s better known tracks such as “Naima,” “Welcome,” and “Lonnie’s Lament” along with Jessica’s Trane-influenced tributes, “The Seeker,” “Prayer and Meditation,” and “Just Words” as well as the title track.
Playing a Steinway at JW Sound Studios in Monterey, Ca. the acoustics are first rate and the “communication” between Jessica and Portland residents Dave Captein on bass, and the brilliant drummer, Mel Brown, is striking. Mel has recorded many times with Jessica, and their trio at Atwater’s in Portland with the legendary Leroy Vinnegar in the early 90s holds special meaning for me.
“The Seeker” opens the CD, and Jessica’s intensity and innate swing immediately honors Coltrane. Williams has a muscular touch on the keyboard and her fleet fingering with Mel Brown keeping pace, and a warm bottom end provided by Captein, brings out the spiritual power that Trane embodied. “Lonnie’s Lament” is deeply moving as it gently explores the introspective side of Coltrane. The title track follows and its bluesy jaunt has gospel overtones that inspire social progress through soul searching.
“Paul’s Pal” written by Sonny Rollins and Coltrane lightens the mood for a bit and its swing is infectious. “Prayer and Meditation” were central to Coltrane’s being as expressed on “A Love Supreme” and here Williams mixes intensity with gorgeous ballad lines that show that the “search” does not have to be always somber.
Freedom Trane closes with two of John’s most famous compositions, “Naima,” and “Welcome” and Jessica is equal to the task of interpreting Trane sans saxophone, and is helped by Mel Brown’s cymbal work that cements the mood that John brought to the musical stage. Dave Captein also provides sympathetic backing that matches well with Williams’ interpretations.
What a treasure we have with Jessica Williams. Come pay us a few more visits in Portland, Ms. Williams…
TrackList: The Seeker, Lonnie’s Lament, Freedom Trane, Paul’s Pal, Prayer and Meditation, Just Words, Naima, Welcome.
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