James Williams, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Joe Lovano, soprano and tenor saxophone; Freddy Cole, vocal, Ron Carter, bass; Etta Jones, vocal; Rufus Reid, bass; Steve Wilson, alto saxophone; Mary Stallings, vocal; Houston Person, Tenor saxophone; Billy Pierce, tenor saxophone; Dave Stryker, guitar; Steve Nelson, vibes; Jon Faddis, trumpet; John Patitucci, bass; Peter Washington, bass; Kim Nalley, vocal; Roger Holland, vocal; Russell Malone, guitar; Loren Schoenberg, tenor saxophone; Ray Drummond, bass, John Clayton, bass, Steve Heck, vocal; Thomas Trotter, vocal; Miles Griffith; vocal.
In this four volume set, pianist James Williams engages in a series of Jazz dialogues with twenty four top musicians; most of them his friends. His personality must be welcoming, for he teases out of all of them engaging performances in four and a half hours of music. The first set, called "Willpower", he dedicates to the late Etta Jones who sings "Skylark", and in set three "Out Of Nowhere"; these were her last recordings. The first set has stellar contributions from Steve Wilson on alto sax, Russell Malone, guitar, Joe Lovano, tenor sax and Steve Nelson on vibes.
The second set is named "Focus" and kicks off with the title piece written by Williams, which puts us on track for lively hearing. "Gee Baby, Ain't I good To You?" is shared with the thoughtful and emotional tenor sax of Houston Person; then into an upbeat "Put On A Happy Face" with the sparkling Russell Malone on guitar. There is a powerful, soulful vocal from Roger Holland in "I Know It's You". Another emotional tenor sax sound from Steve Heckman in "I've Got The World On A String", some bright trumpet from Jon Faddis on Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High", and Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream" opens with a fine bass solo from John Clayton.
"Out Of Nowhere" is the title of the third set of twelve pieces which include the voice of Freddy Cole giving plenty of feeling to "That's My Desire." "Dolphin Dance," with the vibes of Steve Nelson, Etta Jones making her second appearance on the title tack. A lively piano from Williams on "When Your Smiling", well supported by Rufus Reid on bass, and Jon Faddis is sensitively resonant with perfectly lovely trumpet work on "A Child Is Born".
The final set titled "Music For A While", takes off with "Thermo", accompanied on bass by Christian McBride with some impressive playing; then back to some soulful introspection with Joe Lovano on soprano sax, playing "Take Time For Love". A good swingy "Undecided" sung by Mary Stallings has some bite, and Thomas Trotter sings a straight, non-Jazz version of Richard Rodgers's "If I Loved You", some fine melodic piano from Williams in support. "The More I See You", is deliciously infused by the tenor sax of Houston Person. The set finishes with "Music For A While", written by Henry Purcell and sung by Roger Holland and Thomas Trotter, this Baroque piece further emphasizes the colorful range of Williams's piano playing. This is a wonderful set of Jazz dialogues; Williams is an honest, versatile pianist, his church roots are always evident, he produces some sharp collaborations and some superb Jazz, sensitively supporting each partner as required. This is a great four-volume set.
by Ferdinand Maylin
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