The reissue mavens and mavenettes at Collectors' Choice Music have scored another coup with the commencement of Roger Williams' (piano) capacious Kapp Records catalog, which boasts better than three-dozen respective discs. Cutting right to the chase, the first release on the docket is a two-fer CD containing a pair of the artist's most critically and commercially lauded titles, Till (1957), and the follow-up long-player, Near You (1958). Williams was a child prodigy whose talents were temporarily overshadowed while he pursued a career as a boxer. Several broken noses later he returned to music. By the time these two platters were issued, he had already chalked up a significant audience who continually placed his LPs and 45s in both the airplay and sales charts. His emotive style and limber precision became a trademark when interpreting easy listening covers of pop standards, as well as updated arrangements of classical works. This seemingly disparate combination of styles comprise the contents of Till/Near You (2004). "Brahms' A Flat Waltz," "Moonlight Love," which is based on Debussy's Clair de Lune, and "Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1" [aka "Tonight We Love"] are not rendered in a pretentious manner. Each piece is given a unique revitalization drawing heavily on Williams' dexterous and emphatic phrasings. His ability to create bold yet intimate moods is exemplified on the noir and moody "Jalousie." The track is executed with an inundation of agile keyboarding, reinforcing his equally dynamic chord progressions. While his verve remains strong throughout, the intimate solitude of "Fascination," or the haunting "Tammy," are apt demonstrations of Williams' versatility. He similarly retains the comfortable charisma of "Catch a Falling Star" with a Latin-tinged feel missing from Perry Como's hit version. For modern listeners, this entry allows a long overdue exposure to Roger Williams at his undeniable peak.
Till/Near You Review
by Lindsay Planer