Jessica Williams: A Gal In Calico
A Gal in Calico
Jessica Williams (piano)
In the Pocket (Hep 2055)
Jeff Johnson (bass).
Composed by Arthur Schwartz and Leo Robin.
Recorded: Portland, OR, July 28, 1993
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
"A Gal in Calico" is one of a number of Williams' recorded tracks over the years that can rightfully be called a tour de force. Both Dave Brubeck (Jessica's earliest influence) and Williams herself wrote separate liner notes for her In the Pocket CD on which this selection appears. Brubeck writes, "She treats the melody like Stravinsky approached the theme of 'Star Spangled Banner,' skipping all over the octaves of the original theme, instead of the sequential melodic notes of the normal range." Williams observed, "There's a place in 'Gal in Calico' where the left hand plays a bass line in the middle of the piano and Jeff's bass line is in the lower register and Dick's just wailing along. Now that works because it doesn't get so cluttered that it gets confusing."
Musical analysis aside, "A Gal in Calico" works because of its freshness, constant element of surprise, and clarity of vision. Williams' deconstruction of the melody is daring and yet remarkably easy to follow and appreciate. Her long solo features quick, nervous flurries, impish arpeggios and runs, breathtaking block chords, and a supremely flexible rhythmic pulse. Johnson's resoundingly assured bass solo and Berk's thematic drum exploration are each augmented by Williams' very imaginative commentary. The pianist's subsequent trades with Berk are dazzling, with Williams playing some dexterous two-handed counterpoint and even reaching up to pluck part of the theme on the piano's strings. Few jazz pianists could match, much less top, this virtuoso performance.
Reviewer: Scott Albin