It's been four years since Williams' last album, but as the smooth-jazz saxophonist's new album demonstrates, she's been keeping busy. Truly a woman who's in complete control of her recording career, Williams played the saxophone and several other instruments on Evolution, wrote, co-wrote, produced, co-produced, co-executive produced, recorded, co-recorded and mixed most of the 15 tracks. And she conceived the album artwork, too.
Most of Evolution's tunes fall into the R&B-flavored smooth-jazz category, but Williams shows quite a bit of range throughout the album. She's gracefully lyrical on the ballad "A Song for Pam," composed by saxophonist Gerald Albright, and funky on the lively, grooving "The Dance." Evolution includes a number of vocal tracks, several of which feature Williams' singing. Her soft, breathy voice lends itself well to the sultry, Latin-flavored "Placero," and the catchy "5ive Minutes" wouldn't sound out of place on urban AC radio. In addition to her solo career, Williams serves as musical director for veteran R&B star Teena Marie, and Marie appears on "I Am Love," an uptempo number that finds Williams weaving saxophone and flute in and around Marie's vocals.
Williams' sound isn't especially innovative-there are plenty of other R&B-flavored smooth-jazz saxophonists-but overall, Evolution is a strong, well-crafted collection. And in a genre that has few female instrumentalists who also produce, record and mix their own music, Williams' versatility and independence place her in a class by herself.