Jessica Williams: Warm Valley
Jessica Williams (piano)
All Alone (MAXJAZZ 206)
Jessica Williams (piano).
Composed by Duke Ellington.
Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 16-18, 2002
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
The sensuous, reverent "Warm Valley" was originally introduced by Duke Ellington as a feature for Johnny Hodges' alto, and has rarely been covered by pianists over the years. Playing solo, Williams interprets it memorably here. (See
review on jazz.com of Earl Hines' performance, one of the other notable exceptions.) This is Jessica Williams the reflective balladeer, the other side of the often more uninhibited, effusive player. Those two sides complete an unbeatable master of jazz piano.
Williams' short intro is both glowing and majestic, and the same can be said for her treatment of the theme, highlighted by her clarion touch, gradational ornamentations, and a hypnotically serene and soothing pace. Some of her twittering arpeggios bear the stamp of both Ellington and Monk's pianistics, and a bluesy ambiance quite effectively and subtly pervades one of her choruses. However, it is the striking immediacy of her open-hearted articulation that is perhaps the most compelling aspect of this glorious interpretation, so fully captured by recording engineers David Baker and Ed Reed.
Reviewer: Scott Albin