Pianist Jessica Williams' newest album is, as fans have come to expect, another winner.
This prolific artist - more than 40 releases, and still counting - has been at the top of the talent pool for nearly 50 years. Only a few musicians have achieved such longevity, and the amazing aspect is that she's better now than ever before.
In addition, Williams is more than a consummate pianist; she wrote all but one of the tunes in this solo piano release. The lone exception is Sonny Rollins' lesser-known "Blessings In Disguise," a soulful blues chart that Williams turns into a concert piece.
Her own tunes include three beautiful ballads ("Empathy," "Spoken Softly" and "If Only"); the Asian-tinged "Toshiko"; a "conservatory" - styled "Fantasia"; a lullaby with jazz overtones ("Song For A Baby"); "Lament," which has hints of the Aussie "Waltzing Matilda"; and a wonderful slow blues tribute to Oscar Peterson ("Dear Oscar").
All are done elegantly, but my favorite is "If Only," an absolutely gorgeous piece that grabs you by the throat.
The absence of any backup musicians forces the listener to focus completely on the solo artist. That can be quite a challenge for the performer; if the music isn't truly outstanding, the results can be boring.
But not to worry: Your attention won't waver from Williams. She's masterful.
Incidentally, the album liner notes - written by Williams - are informative, quite interesting and almost worth the price of the album alone.