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Jessica Williams: This Side Up

Jessica Williams’ debut for MaxJazz reveals many of her influences-Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Dexter Gordon, Miles, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins-and she honors them in her own way: she may quote them, but never imitates them. She has no need to. Williams’ style and technique embrace a very original combination of wit and grace, introspection and white heat.

Backed by dependable rhythm giants Ray Drummond, bass, and Victor Lewis, drums, Williams is free to soar and explore. Eight of the 10 tracks are originals, providing insight into her interpretive skills. Among Williams’ most impressive pianistic traits are the use of impressionistic clusters and cleanly executed arpeggios; excellent control of dynamic shadings and her tasteful, sparing swipes of the piano strings; her Monklike gap-filling (she disdains the use of the adjective “Monkish”); those clean arpeggios over Drummond’s arco drone ending “Blue Tuesday”; the humor of the polite Viennese “hiccups” (accenting the second beat) in the jazz waltz “Black Diamonds,” but when she’s goosed by Lewis, the jazz waltz cooks uninhibitedly.

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