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July/August 1999

Jessica Williams
In the Key of Monk
Jazz Focus Records

Jessica Williams is a pianist of great technical facility, with a strong conception to match. This solo recital was captured live on May 31, 1997, in Calgary. The repertoire includes seven Monk tunes, two standards Monk played that made an impression on Williams, and three Williams compositions (two dedicated to Monk, one to Charlie Rouse). Her approach to music-making is perhaps less intuitive and fully of-the-moment than Monk's-whose isn't?-but she has clearly internalized the language that Monk evolved: whole tone scales, tone clusters that vanish into one clear ringing tone, etc. She enriches that with her own sense of possibility. The clarity of her phrasing gives her rhythmic gambits extraordinarily high impact, and her evident commitment to Monk and his music-evident in a heartfelt liner essay as well as in every note she plays here-ups the ante further. No bluff needed: Williams holds winning hands here.

Originally published in July/August 1999
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