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Jessica Williams
THIS SIDE UP
(MAXJAZZ)

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A few jazz geniuses are out there operating in the margins, and pianist Jessica Williams is one of them. Recording and writing from her coastal hideaway in California, she documented her talents on dozens of discs (many on her own label) before connecting with Maxjazz here. Her strength stems not from technical flash or power (though she has both) but from a mastery of the musical vocabulary and a commitment to bend it to her Muse.

Once the house pianist at the defunct San Francisco club Keystone Korner, Williams hooks up here with an A-list rhythm section, Victor Lewis on drums and Ray Drummond on bass, and they establish a strong foundation as she roams over material ranging from bluesy originals to Roland Kirkís odd march "Theme for the Eulipians." Her Monk-like sense of playfulness is balanced by a deep introspection; her unusual phrases are steadied by an unerring sense of dynamics. She operates in Milesís musical space on "The Judge," which is named for the late bassist Milt Hinton, and engages in some adventurous note bending and otherworldly runs on "Miles To Go." Williams should come out of her hideaway more often.

BY BILL KISLIUK

Issue Date: June 6 - 13, 2002
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