Jessica Williams

All Alone

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Jessica Williams has turned out a phenomenal amount of rewarding recordings since her career began to really take off during the 1990s. This solo piano outing recorded in 2002 is among her finest efforts, especially in her refreshing approaches to standards and some usually overdone (and frequently underplayed) war horses. "As Time Goes By" has almost become a cliché due to its inclusion in the still popular film Casablanca, but Williams' quirky approach to it suggests Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, and Thelonious Monk at different times, yet never loses touch with the melody. Likewise, her playful little embellishment added to Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" suggests a wink and a smile accompanying the expected "I Love You" to someone special. Irving Berlin wrote many memorable songs during his long career, but the pianist chooses two that aren't heard all that often in jazz settings, "All Alone" and "They Say It's Wonderful," with their often maudlin settings drastically altered. Her originals are just as remarkable. The captivating melody of her delicate ballad "Toshiko" glistens, while she playfully hand-mutes the piano strings and incorporates a little strumming of them as well in her infectious and bluesy "The Sheikh." The intimate sound of this CD makes it seem as if the listener is enjoying a private solo piano recital, so it is very easy to recommend this disc highly and without the slightest reservation.

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