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Jessica Williams: Jessica’s Blues

Not many people can evoke Garner, Duke, Garland, Silver, Monk, Tyner and even Randy Weston or Cecil Taylor in the course of one session. Few indeed can take basic aspects of these great stylists, say “watch what we can do with this” and go somewhere the original creator never went. Picasso’s “Good artists imitate-great ones steal” maxim certainly comes to mind but I don’t want to apply a term that leads us towards hype and away from seeing this woman’s substantial achievements. Time and again she sets up an obvious reference point, Monk, say, or Tyner, and after having you admire how well it’s been done, which is really all you can ask of a mainstream approach, she gets you to say, “Damn-McCoy didn’t think of doing those subtle dynamic things that way” or “Even Monk wouldn’t play a phrase that twisted.” This is a very brave kind of originality that deserves hearing, especially when combined with a fine compositional and arranging sense, humor, and a shot of sheer rambunctiousness. Jay Thomas is convincing on trumpet and even better on tenor, and Jeff Johnson and Mel Brown are exemplary on rhythm.

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