Jazz Dialogues, Vol. 1: Willpower

James Williams

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Jazz Dialogues, Vol. 1: Willpower Review

by Ken Dryden

A few months prior to his death in the summer of 2004, pianist James Williams simultaneously released four volumes of a series entitled Jazz Dialogues that consisted of encounters with a variety of different musicians. Volume 1: Willpower features ten different meetings, with Etta Jones offering a touching take of "Skylark" (a piece she had never recorded), a surprising extended, somewhat country-flavored duet of "Rainy Days and Mondays" (a pop hit for the Carpenters) with bassist Christian McBride, and a soulful interpretation of "Whisper Not" with guitarist Russell Malone. Williams also plays several originals, including "Le Wizard de Basso" with Ron Carter that was written especially for the bassist, the tricky post-bop vehicle "Willpower" featuring tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and a duet with frequent collaborator Steve Nelson of "Be Real Special," though Nelson's vibes are recorded just a touch too hot. Williams' extensive background in church music is evident in his moving duet with John Patitucci of the hymn "I Surrender All." Anyone who hears one volume will immediately want all four.

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