SOME BALLADS SOME BLUES - Jessica Williams piano; Dave Captein, bass; Mel Brown, drums - A continued bestseller on Red and Blue Records
1 You Don't Know What Love Is
3 My Foolish Heart
4 For You Again (JW)*
5 When I Fall in Love
6 Mr Johnson (JW)*
7 Dark One (JW)*
8 Simple Things (JW)*
Total time: 63.30, White Horse Studios, Portland, OR, on April 12 & 13, 1999. Recording engineer, Bob Stark. *Compositions by Jessica Williams, JJW Music ASCAP
Nothing short of brilliant. - Sidney Bechet-Mandela
Some Ballads Some Blues is one of the high points of 1999. - Fred Jung, Jazz Weekly
Jessica Williams is unique, a marvel of musicianship. But then, you and I have known that for years. - George Fendel, JazzScene Magazine *****(5 STARS)
Review, JAZZ WEEKLY, Fred Jung, Editor and Critic
Some Ballads Some Blues is the most important work of Jessica Williams's substantial career.
It is a point she makes herself. The finest release on her own label, Williams features her latest trio, Dave Captein on bass and Mel Brown on drums for a mixed program of originals and standards.
Williams's uncanny romantic touch to an extended "You Don't Know What Love Is" is nothing new from a brilliant pianist, but the sheer amount of highly inventive ideas that flow in her playing has always merited closer attention. Her deliciously lyrical passages are equally superb for a compelling "When I Fall in Love." She negotiates the love theme with quiet shadings and a lovely tone.
It serves as a model for ballad playing.
The charming session continues with an immaculate "Simple Things," with Williams building a rather unpretentious blues backed appropriately by Captein and Brown.
Some Ballads Some Blues is one of the high points of 1999. -Fred Jung, Jazz Weekly
GEORGE FENDEL, JazzScene Magazine, 5 STARS
Jessica Williams inaugurates her own label with the trio she's worked with in recent Portland appearances; Dave Captein, bass and Mel Brown, drums. This is one of JW's most reflective recordings, stated with directness and elegance, and mostly at moderate or slow tempos.
Jessica practically "whispers" My Foolish Heart and When I Fall In Love, but you'll also be drawn to her melodic originals like Simple Things and For You Again.
Jessica Williams is unique, a marvel of musicianship. But then, you and I have known that for years. - GEORGE FENDEL, JazzScene Magazine *****(5 STARS)
Article from Jazz USA, by Sidney Bechet-Mandela
If there is any justice in the jazz world, Jessica Williams would be in the middle of a big-multi level major label deal. Instead young 20-somethings with less ideas than Williams has in two fingers are getting the major money and fiery veterans like Williams are reduced to fly-by-night outfits with limited distribution.
There is quite a buzz coming out of St. Louis about her first record for the nationally distributed Missouri based label MaxJazz; until then, those east of the Mississippi may have a hard time finding this gem from a label based in Calgary, Alberta.
The disc has written endorsements from Dave Brubeck and McCoy Tyner, which is quite appropriate, because as disparate as the styles of those two giants are, Williams manages to combine the bluesy sweetness from Brubecks style, with the fiery spirituality that Tyner exudes. The eight tracks are equally divided, as the album title suggests, with five of them Williams originals that are nothing short of brilliant. -Sidney Bechet-Mandela
"My wife Michele just came in from her garden up here at 4000 feet. She said who's that? I said, Jessica Williams. She said. Wonderful. I said yeah. At the time I was playing Mr. Johnson, but it's all like that. The music playing you, and me and Michele too.
The recording quality is superb as well. I like not having to fight user-unfriendly shrink wrap.
I went to your website after hearing you on a program from Honolulu's PBS station. There too, I wondered who that fine music could be played by and found not surprisingly that it was you. Many thanks for the gift CD, the signed copies, the free shipping and all that beautiful music. Incidentally, you look better every year. Aloha" - Ralph ____
Liner notes by Jessica Williams:
Playing music is a pursuit dissimilar to listening to it; yet there are quite a few shared experiences- in both activities. The improvising musician experiences surprise, serenity, passionate abandon, technical obstacles, occasional distraction, deep involvement, and differing levels of perceived (subjective) success during most performances. The listener may be removed from the physicality of the process, but a person that listens well has an opportunity to share intimately in the creative event. I've always felt that the playing and listening and sharing of great music is very like taking a walk through a forest with a loving friend. "Just look at the shape of this tree; smell this flower; notice how the sunlight penetrates the canopy of leaves and seems to dapple the forest floor with gentle, shifting illumination. Stare at this leaf and notice a small creature performing big tasks; check out the spectrum of colors that join to produce the symphony that makes our senses soar; look at the purple- a purple like no other purple in the Universe- of that one tiny blossom."
And if you're in Iove with yourcompanion, all of the colors and smells and sounds and sensory impressions are made all that more vivid and intoxicating and unforgettable...a moment of time that seems eternal, a shared vision of enhanced reality that remains with you forever.
It really feels that way to me when the music is right; I'm not DOING anything but observing and appreciating and experiencing. As I walk along the path, I find a new wonder in every inch of my surroundings. The NOT DOING is the thing I do when the music starts playing ME.
An old poem of mine:
when poeting I'm blown by the wind of the words;
when playing I'm being played by the eternal now;
everything I do does me too.
Not Keats, but I captured the thought.
Listener and player alike experience this timelessness and discovery. To have walked these woods many times does not preclude sublime surprise.
There is a thing in nature that some artists and poets and musicians discover, particularly as they age and mature; the truth and beauty of simplicity. Nature (all of it, including galactic clusters and sub-atomic particles) appears maddeningly complex at first, because our senses are so limited that we need to list and categorize our surroundings to understand them. Chaos Theory implies a devastatingly complex interaction of forces that operate unpredictably and incomprehensibly...but if we look through our prism at a slightly different angle, we see the repetition of a few simple forms in all of existence. Planetary systems and atoms, assymetric curves in organisms and the curvature of space, the energy of suns and the emissions of electrons. We do not see this at first, nor do we hear it. The Buddhist knows it by un-knowing, the scientist by seeking a unified field theory, the artist hy seeking the hidden, the musician by listening to the silence between the notes.
Miles Davis used silence to powerful effect in his music; silence and deliberate punctuation of that silence. Coltrane's apparent complexity is illusory ...his forms and structures are studies in the purest simplicity and repetition. Duke's music is the purest kind of jazz, and it's dance music, too. Every great musical statement is grounded in the body, not in the intellect. From Mozart to Monk, the music may seem unforgivingly difficult and intellectual, but by turning the prism (opening our hearts) we get it! It goes directly to our blood and bone and gut and soul.
My music is becoming more direct and simple because (I suppose) that is exactly what I'm becoming. There's not a note I would remove from this album, nor is there one I would add. I have quietly fallen in love with this collection of pieces over the past few monthes, in part because of it's guilless purity and simple beauty. This music seems to center me and bring me into harmony when I'm in need of that. It is also my very first recording for my own label. I feel that if I can continue to produce honest music like this, my label and my art and my life will continue to grow and mature and prosper. I am humbled by this art-form; I will need to live a very long time to learn a fraction of what it embodies.
I deeply and sincerely hope you enjoy this album. It is so beautiful to be able to share my music with you.
Thank you. Warmth and Joy and Peace and, above all, love!
Jessica Williams, California, June, 1999
Digitally recorded direct to 2-track DAT at White Horse Studios, Portland, OR., on April 12, 13, 1999. Recording engineer-Bob Stark. Digital mastering-Rainer Gembalcyzk, at Sienna Digital, San Mateo, CA. Cover photos of Jessica by Elaine Arc
PRODUCED BY JESSICA WILLIAMS for Red and Blue Records
Artist's Personal Review of this CD: