Jessica Williams

Billy's Theme: A Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International

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This CD was designed as a tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor, the veteran jazz pianist who has been playing for 65 years now and is counted by Ms Williams as a friend. He has also booked her to play at various prestigious events and, as she puts it, they have spent time 'hanging out together for a few hours.' The music, all original compositions by Jessica, is played on a beautifully tuned and recorded concert grand and presents this particular pianist to best advantage. To best advantage because the fine instrument and clarity of the recording brings her into the listening room and it is quite an experience. One of the very few pianists that genuinely seem not to need bass and drum support, she is her own rhythm section, stabbing out a solid and at times quite complex bass line as she weaves patterns of vigorous improvisation with her right hand. Billy's Theme No 1 and The Soul Doctor introduce really soulful lines and blues phrasing that is the essence of good jazz. So comprehensive is the solo playing here that it seems at times that she has an invisible bass player locked in under her left hand. Lightness of touch and rippling lines are heard at the end of The Soul Doctor, offering a fresh dimension to an already comprehensive recital. Blues For BT has Jessica digging deeply into her own blues interpretation and here again that invisible bass player pops up from the dark low regions of the piano keyboard; few pianists can manage as full a rocking bass line as this while still inventing sturdily in the treble region. It is a very fine piece of piano blues but there are times when you would swear that at least two musicians are playing. All of this musician's previous releases have been impressive but this is one of the most comprehensive and vivid solo piano recitals I have heard and far surpasses even her own earlier attempts at recording alone at the keyboard. The two Spontaneous Composition And Improvisation pieces are precisely that; she builds up an impressive musical structure from just a simple starting motive and expands and hones it for just less than 20 minutes without boring the listener or losing his interest and attention for one second. Not this listener at any rate. Here's a CD which I feel sure buyers will return to again and again for many years to come.






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