James Williams & ICU

Truth, Justice & The Blues

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Truth, Justice and the Blues was an interesting departure for James Williams. Most of the pianist's albums have been instrumental, but this superb CD finds him featuring two male vocalists (Miles Griffith and Roger Holland) extensively. Truth, Justice and the Blues is essentially an album of acoustic post-bop, although Williams incorporates elements of gospel, blues, and soul. The results are quite spiritual; some of the comparisons that immediately come to mind include Duke Ellington's more gospel-influenced material and the Horace Silver LPs that feature Andy Bey. One also thinks of Leon Thomas' work with Pharoah Sanders and the early Lonnie Liston Smith/Cosmic Echoes records that employed Donald Smith on vocals. You won't find any overdone Tin Pan Alley standards on this 1994 date; all of the melodies were written by Williams, although Pamela Baskin-Watson provides most of the lyrics (including seldom heard lyrics for "Alter Ego," Williams' best-known melody). That is, she writes lyrics for the songs that have lyrics -- Griffith and Holland stick to wordless scatting on a few of the selections. Truth, Justice and the Blues isn't for myopic jazz snobs or for people who believe that only instrumental music has value. But if you appreciate a variety of African-American music -- if you're the sort of eclectic listener who holds Joe Williams, Marvin Gaye, Sister Clara Ward, and Jimmy Witherspoon in equally high regard -- you'll find that Truth, Justice and the Blues is among Williams' finest accomplishments.

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