Jessica Williams

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

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Jim Santella, Cadence

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The solo piano performance on Billy's Theme features Jessica Williams with a loving tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor. With her program of original compositions, she's captured the essence of his appreciation for pure melody and all the other simple pleasures found in good music. Like Taylor, Williams prefers to let her heart sing these musical praises instead of relying on muscular technique or some other tool that raises awareness through innovation. She delivers a message that's pure and simple; yet each piece comes attached to deep feelings. "The Soul Doctor" finds Williams exploring the piano's deepest registers at a slow pace, while she finds energy to release at every corner. Her plaintive melodies cascade up and sown from the fight hand with the Blues on her mind. Similarly, "Blues for BT" reaches out for that aspect or our musical awareness that responds to walking bass and soulful melodies. Williams' program recalls much of the emotional impact that we've received from a wide array of classy Jazz pianists, from Jelly Roll Morton to Art Tatum, Count Basie and many of Taylor's contemporaries Her two spontaneous improvisations stretch out for nearly 20 minutes of lyrical exploration. In her refreshing liner notes, Williams calls it a "less is more" approach. With her hands reaching both extremes of the keyboards, she finds melody at each octave. Her trio sessions sometimes find her swinging Bebop, quoting from familiar tunes, and interacting with bass and drums for a fast-paced romp. This time out, she's decided to take her time, let each melody flow naturally, and honor Dr. Billy Taylor with a sample of what he has espoused vehemently throughout his extensive career in Jazz.






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