Jessica Williams: The Nearness Of You
The Nearness of You
Jessica Williams (piano)
At Maybeck (Concord 4525)
Jessica Williams (piano).
Composed by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington.
Recorded: Maybeck Recital Hall, Berkeley, CA, Feb. 16, 1992
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Williams was living in Portland, OR at the time she recorded what became Volume 21 of the prestigious Maybeck Recital Hall solo piano series. While the respect and admiration for her playing was still largely confined to the West Coast, it was perhaps that regional recognition that resulted in her invitation to join the ranks of other better-known pianists who had already performed at Maybeck, such as Barry Harris, Marian McPartland, Kenny Barron, and Hank Jones. In turn, the release of Williams' At Maybeck broadened her exposure more than had any of her previous albums.
"The Nearness of You" is one of the most impressive tracks, and surely turned more than a few heads her way for the first time, creating future loyal fans in the process. Williams begins with parallel modulating figures, dissonant note clusters, and whirling dervish runs, before a semblance of the theme finally emerges. She continues with more subtle embellishments, but still often provocative and unpredictable in the direction and resolution of her phrases. The pianist uses the entire keyboard, as is her wont, dwelling for a time in the upper octaves while maintaining an appealingly swaying rhythm with her left hand. Williams gets progressively deeper inside the tune's harmonic structure with intricate, logical, and always listener-friendly variations. The reprise of the melody features a sprinkling of Monkish "trinkle-tinkles," before a playful yet heartfelt ending.
Reviewer: Scott Albin