Jessica Williams: If I Were A Bell


If I Were a Bell



Encounters (Jazz Focus 005)

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Jessica Williams (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass),

Mel Brown (drums)


Composed by Frank Loesser


Recorded: live at Atwater's, Portland, OR, Sept. 10, 1994


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

"He definitely brought out a lot of my influences, " Williams said about playing with bassist Leroy Vinnegar during this live club session, adding, "At one point I felt like Wynton Kelly." She was likely referring to the track "If I Were a Bell," which recalls the many Miles Davis performances of the tune with not only Wynton Kelly at the piano, but also Red Garland. Williams' 13-minute interpretation swings like mad, and showcases the trio at its best, both as individual soloists and in rapt group interaction.

Williams glides jubilantly over the rhythm team's relaxed yet driving cadence. Her bluesy, singing lines bubble over with engaging creativity, supplemented by her indomitable, often spiky left-hand voicings. Monkish dissonance and Garland-like block chords filter through the unrelenting Kelly-inspired propulsion. When Williams suddenly turns pianissimo, wittily quoting from "I Get a Kick Out of You," this allows Vinnegar to move up-front and go on one of his inimitable "walking tours," graced by the pianist's simpatico comping. Williams then hooks up with Brown for exchanges that emphatically confirm the drummer's substantial skills, capped by a solo exhibiting a melodicism that compares favorably with the similar approach of Max Roach. Williams returns with a spacy free-fall concluding fantasia that never loses its inventive way.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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