Jessica Williams, Piano – Live at Yoshi’s, Volumes 1 & 2 – MaxJazz Piano Series

by | Aug 1, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Jessica Williams, Piano – Live at Yoshi’s, Volumes 1 & 2 – MaxJazz Piano Series MXJ 210, MXJ 214  – Recorded 7/9-7/10/03, 71:02, 69:21 ****1/2:

(Jessica Williams, piano; Ray Drummond, acoustic bass; Victor Lewis, drums)

Recorded over a two night span at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square in Oakland, California during the Summer of 2003 and issued as part of the MaxJazz Piano Series, Jessica Williams proves again that she is the premiere female piano trio artist based on the West Coast. She can swing with the best male pianists and holds her own as a composer as well. Generally with a sensitive yet firm touch and a concentration approaching Bill Evans, Ms. Williams’ playing is expressive, creative, and never boring. She makes full use of the full spectrum of the piano and even occasionally plucks at the piano strings such as on Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches on Volume 2. She can take standards such as Summertime, Say It Over and Over Again, or Alone Together and bring a smile to your lips with her original interpretations, whether done in a soft sensitive manner like Evans or Hank Jones or in a full-bodied dominant manner like Kenny Barron, or Harold Mabern.

Her original compositions, such as Tutu’s Promise can show her blues playing ability and her introspective tenderness is on display on her original Poem in G Minor. Her super trio of veterans Ray Drummond on bass and Victor Lewis bring to mind Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian in their work with Bill Evans as they supply much more than background support for Jessica as they fully interact as equals in the trio. Drummond is a consummate bassist and when given solo time can be as sensitive and creative as the trio leader. Victor Lewis is a master with the brushes and is always fully in synch.

As sensitive and contemplative as Ms.Williams is, she also has her playful side as expressed in Volume Two’s Lulu’s Back in Town and Volume One’s I’m Confessin’ I Love You. I’m partial to her ballad readings such as the first volume’s Heather, written by Billy Cobham, with whom you do not equate ballad writing.

Williams’ braveness in tackling and giving fresh interpretations to jazz standards is well known to jazz piano fans and is evidenced in her extended takes of Alone Together and on Monk’s Mysterioso.  The acoustics of Yoshi’s Jazz House are the frosting on these two volumes of piano trio adventures. They were expertly recorded and mixed by Phil Edwards and mastered by Katsuhiko Naito and have a clear clean sheen typically attributed to a top flight studio production. Picking between the two volumes is no easy task. Make it easy on yourself and show good taste by picking them both up.

Vol. 1: Tracks – I‚m Confessin‚ That I Love you, Say it Over and Over Again, You Say You Care, Tutu’s Promise, Heather, Alone Together, Poem in G Minor, I Want to Talk About You, Mysterioso

Vol. 2: Tracks – Flamenco Sketches, Why Do you Love Me, Spoken Softly, Elbow Room, Soldaji, Paul’s Pal, Dear Gaylord, Lulu’s Back in Town, Summertime

– Jeff Krow

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