Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

James Williams: Spirits Unbound

James Williams

Pianist-composer-bandleader James Williams, one of the true gentlemen of jazz, is known as a consummate bandmember and team player. Beyond the bandstand Williams is one of the more astute jazz businessmen and entrepreneurs of his jazz generation. Proprietor of Finas Sound Productions, Inc., a company with a Manhattan office that has produced recordings, annual tribute concerts to jazz masters, and worked in artist development, the Brooklyn resident keeps extremely busy, never allowing himself to come up for air long enough to bemoan the general jazz “condition”. Besides his business enterprise, named in loving memory of his greatest jazz piano hero, fellow Memphis, TN native Phineas Newborn, Jr., Williams continues to take gigs as sideman and special guest, lending his soulful piano stylings with great humility. These days his number one passion is his own ensemble, the Intensive Care Unit (or ICU).

James Williams & ICU is currently riding the waves of its latest recording and second for the Evidence label, We’ve Got What You Need. Boasting a unique frontline sound of two male voices and saxophone, the ICU has no peers in its harmonious pursuit. We’ve Got What You Need lives up to its boast in many ways but is a bit more subtle in delivering Williams’ positive messages than was its predecessor, Truth, Justice & The Blues, which wore its gospel colors in bolder relief. “We like to try to do things that are a bit uplifting as well as fun and [We’ve Got What You Need] delivers a message without being preachy or over-the-top with it. We deliver ‘feel good’ music. We’re trying to not take ourselves too seriously, but the music is very serious; we’re telling the listeners and others, ‘Hey, it’s not what they’re saying; we’ve got what you need over here’,” chuckles Williams.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published

Willard Jenkins

Willard Jenkins has covered jazz artists, performances, and the jazz infrastructure since his early-’70s undergrad days writing for The Black Watch student newspaper at Kent State University. Additionally, he has been a jazz broadcaster since 1973— currently programming at WPFW in Washington, D.C.—and a jazz concerts and festivals presenter since 1978. He currently serves as artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival and artistic director of jazz programming at Tribeca Performing Arts Center (NYC). A founding member of the Jazz Journalists Association, he is also a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement award.