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Jazz Remembered


Jessica Williams



Jessica Williams


Eric Jackson suggests we spend time with jazz pianist Jessica Williams. Eric says: ' It is time the profile of pianist Jessica Williams was raised as it seems to be slipping away with puzzled expressions or vague recollections when her name is mentioned. Where people do remember her, the recollection probably comes from a DVD where she appears with Bobby Hutcherson at a Harvest Jazz Festival, or from her work in the '70s and '80s with musicians such as Eddie Henderson and Charlie Rowse'.


Listen to Jessica playing My One And Only Love.




Jessica Williams was born in 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland. She began playing piano when she was four and was performing by her teens. Although she studied classical music, by her early thirties she had played with Philly Joe Jones and after moving to San Franciso was playing in house bands for Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz.


Here is Jessica playing her composition I Remember Dexter.




Eric continues: 'In about 1993, she moved to Portland on the Pacific coast and continued playing both with her trio and as a solo pinaist. There are two superb CDs entitled Encounters 1 and 2 on Jazz Focus recorded at a club session in 1994 with backing from Leroy Vinnegar where the music could scarcely swing any more. Her music is always swinging, fun and accessible with glimpses of Brubeck, Monk, Tatum, Garner and stride, but is always recognisably hers, with a wide palette of tempos, emphasis, allusions and frequent use of the highest notes. But the music is never retro, just marinaded in the work of the masters.'

'It is difficult to put in print a musical experience but in my case it is akin to listening to musicians who can be audacious, wry and even unnerving, but then whose music ultimately resolves itself. From a reading of her sleeve notes it is apparent that her heroes are Monk and Coltrane and about the latter she has written: " ... his words light my path and his playing lifts my spirits and cleanses my soul."


Listen to Jessica playing Thelonious Monk's Three Chimneys from her Trio album Jazz In The Afternoon.




'Jessica's last visit to the UK was an appearance at the Brecon Jazz Festival where she gave a superb ninety minute recital in the knowledge that it was being filmed by BBC Wales. She was bitterly disappointed when only a fifteen minute segment was shown and her attempts to get the material for her own use were unsuccessful'.

'At the time of this appearance she was already troubled by back problems that resulted from her posture when playing. This had to be tackled and as a result she underwent major surgery in 2012 in an effort to continue playing and earn a living. The medical procedures were long and Jessica Williamscomplicated and had to be paid for by the sale of her precious Yamaha piano. Jessica tells how she had to have: 'multi-level back-fusion that required permanent internal rods, pedicle screws, and bone grafts'. This left her with very little money; she is still not playing publicly and is appealing for help to buy another piano'.

In 1997, Jessica began her own record label, Red and Blue Recordings. She also owns a publishing company, JJW Music, and an internet mail order business. Eric wonders whether this has not helped raise her profile due to the commitments of trying to market and produce her own recordings and cut out the middle man'.

Jessica was diagnosed with cancer. In May, on her website (which has since expired) she remained positive, despite being very short of money, talking of the projects she wanted to pursue, saying: 'I have projects, enough for a second lifetime! The first one coming is a doozie: It involves a book about MY LIFE so far, a movie, a DVD, merchandising, traveling, performing "live" again, plus much NEW JAZZ MUSIC from me. That's all I can say about my business "deals", besides perhaps my improbable request for Jennifer Lawrence to play me . . . I have decided that the best thing I can do for myself is to do what I do, and be who I am. I love my music, and I will soon release new music and begin performing again. There are many things to do, and I will start slow, but speed alone is not music — soul and passion are. I am not done.'

Jessica Williams has released over 70 albums, has written over 1000 compositions and holds a Fellowship with the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Jessica Williams


It was great in July 2018 to hear unexpectedly from Jessica who wrote and sent us a recent photograph:

'Thank you for a page on the site about me!  I just wanted to say hi, yes, I am alive! I am 70 now. My health is getting better, and I am married to the finest man there is. I don’t play jazz anymore — I enjoy the peace and quiet! When it stopped being fun playing jazz, I stopped doing it. I’d done enough, and always said that I did it for fun! Money was never a purpose.

My website was successful but now just sits there. It’s great to be me again, a housewife whose favorite singer was and is Doris Day! Really! Mary Ann Kappelhoff was her name, and she was a pro! I have to admit, Al Green gets equal play! I also listen to all the Detroit soul, especially Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. I don’t listen at all to jazz, as it seems to have lost its substance and timeliness. I still use synthesizers, and that makes me happy — as a hobby.

And I sing. I sing with Doris, and Keely Smith, and Abbey Lincoln. Also Ella. I never knew it but I have a really high and pretty voice. I took lessons and it’s so liberating! I have to breathe! I have not had a cigarette or a drink or drugs for almost 20 years. I do smoke marijuana, for my pain. It’s legal in my state (WA).

Thanks again, Ian. Alicia (aka Jessica)'




Listen to Miles To Go from Jessica's CD Virtual Miles.




Some of Jessica's CD's are available from Amazon etc.



2021 - A number of people have been getting in touch with us asking about Jessica. It seems that Jessica's website has expired and she has not been in contact. Unfortunately we have had no reply to our recent emails to Jessica either. Please let us know if anyone has been able to contact her.


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© Sandy Brown Jazz 2017-2021

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