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September 2003

Jessica Williams
All Alone
MaxJazz

Jessica Williams continues to amaze with her endless versatility on All Alone (MaxJazz). This collection of standards and originals seems to belie her own comment: "I've always wanted to be a musician. Sometimes, all alone, I am." After listening to this CD, one must paraphrase Descartes: "I swing, therefore I am." "As Time Goes By" and "In a Sentimental Mood" contain nods in the direction of Erroll Garner that evolve so naturally after playing her clean single lines over a gentle jazz march. "Warm Valley" is another Ellington gem that should be taken out and aired more often. The same could be said of Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful": too many pianists consider it a singer's turf. Regarding another Berlin chestnut, "All Alone," Williams decided to have some fun. She takes it as a straight waltz but refuses to stoop to "oom-pah-pah," so there is plenty of split stride. By the fourth chorus, she shows her impatience with the original chords and caps it off with a bit of Monkish mischief. She dabbles in the pentatonic scale in "Toshiko," an original that shows her reverence for her Japanese colleague, Toshiko Akiyoshi. It's a first-rate album that underscores Williams' strengths: technique, harmonic taste and her love for swinging.

Originally published in September 2003
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