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Jessica Williams: Joyful Sorrow

This is an outstanding album. A solo tribute to Bill Evans, it simultaneously evokes the late pianist and shows Williams’ delightful eccentricity. While the harmonic moods reflect Evans, the linear development, bass lines, two-handed interplay, density, and rhythmic feeling belong to Williams. The combination suggests a meeting of Keith Jarrett and Thelonious Monk.

There are eight tunes, including three Williams originals. Miles Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches” is the most Evans-like performance-spare and distilled but with sharper details than Evans’ playing on the famous Kind of Blue album. Williams can just as convincingly recall Art Tatum (“My Man’s Gone Now”), Lennie Tristano (“Alone Together”), Erroll Garner (her title tune), and Andy Bey, among others. She is fond of quoting pieces of other tunes but doesn’t overdo it. Throughout these performances Williams is a master of coherence, logic, and diverse approaches.

The album was recorded live at The Jazz Store in Carmel, CA on September 15, 1996, the sixteenth anniversary of Evans’ death.

Originally Published