Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

James Williams


Dave Ferris

Recommended Posts

I had originally posted this over in the Jazz theory book thread after seeing the few references to JW. I thought he deserved a thread of his own.

--------------------------------------------------------------

James was a close friend of mine. When I heard of his passing in NYC I was shocked and of course very saddened.

 

We met in '77 when I was still living in St. Louis. He came through town with Clark Terry. At that time I was still playing in the typical rock bar bands around St. Louis and Illinois. I had pretty much come to the end of the line with that scene and my whole musical lot in life up to that point. I was listening to more Jazz, taking some Classical lessons with a local teacher and basically wanted to get out of St. Louis, study and just get better.

 

James and I hit it off right away. He was from Memphis and was very warm and outgoing. I remember being pretty timid approaching him the first time, not only from a musical standpoint but he seemed larger than life up there.

 

I told James of my desire to move either to NY or LA. He was very encouraging and supportive giving himself has an example, moving from Memphis to Boston, where he had just landed a part time teaching gig at Berklee. He said exactly what I was feeling--now's the time, do it while you're still fresh and young.

 

We ended up choosing LA simply because both my wife and I were sick of the cold weather and more the fact her brother had recently moved to LA and had found employment with Hughes Aircraft. He also was renting a nice condo in Redondo Beach and said we could stay there indefinitely.

 

While staying there in RB I would frequent the various clubs around the South Bay, the Lighthouse, Concerts by the Sea and the Velvet Turtle in PV where Paul Smith used to play.

 

I read both Art Blakey was going to be coming to Concerts by the Sea and that James has just recently got the gig with Art. So cool, we could hook up again. When I showed up that first night you would have thought I was like was like a long lost brother to JW. Even the rest of the band thought the way we were talking that we were brothers :D . I asked where he was staying and he said some dive hotel over by the Lighthouse that Howard Rumsey owned and used for the bands. We had just moved into this tiny, 5-600 sq. ft. guest house , but it had 2 bedrooms. I offered our place has an alternative and James said you don't have to ask twice.

 

Diane, my wife, ended up cooking for not only him but on that Sunday had part of the band over for dinner. Dennis Irwin along with Bobby Watson and his wife. My wife also was able to get the guys "deals" on rental cars has she worked for an insurance company.

 

So every time JW would come come to town we would basically repeat this whole drill. I remember a few years later he called me and said they had this new hot trumpeter that everyone was talking about him---Wynton Marsalis. I remember saying--"Wynton who" ? :D

He said I had to make it down to this club they were playing in McArthur Park. It was a Monday night from what I recall and the place was jammed. Every one was going nuts over WM but also the entire Blakey band. I'd never heard them sound that good-- James said Wynton had really brought a new sense of inspiration and fire to the group.

 

After James left Blakey his trips to the West Coast were less frequent. I was getting pretty busy myself around town and a few times we missed each other when he was here for a one nighter. The last time I saw James was at a IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators) convention in Long Beach. He was out doing some clinics with Rufus Reid. I hadn't seen him in a few years and I was a little shocked at how much he had appeared to age. He looked not only a lot older but very tired too--like the rigors of the "Jazz life" and the road (although James didn't drink or do drugs) were taking a toll.. I asked how he was doing and he said fine but did mention, almost in passing, some health issues. James was not one to complain or go into detail about personal ailments so I didn't press him on it. He seemed very happy to be out and just doing what he loved---playing jazz and meeting/greeting people.

 

It was probably about a year and a half later that I was sitting having breakfast and read in the Times obits that he had passed. It was like someone had just hit me in the stomach--I almost fell out of my chair at the table, I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard anything. I immediately called the telephone number of his apartment in NYC, his close friend who was watching over his affairs those final months answered the phone. He told me of how James had grown progressively weaker and finally had to go to the hospital where he passed from Liver Cancer after about 6 weeks. I felt terribly guilty that I had not known the seriousness of his condition and didn't at least have a chance to say goodbye. I also had missed the Memorial tribute to him.

 

A more soulful cat , that dedicated his life to Jazz music and was loved by everyone he came into contact with, has never walked this planet earth. His spirit has had a huge influence on me and I'll never forget him.

 

RIP my friend James Williams.

 

_________________________

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 22
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Great recount and stories of one of my favorie piano players. I have a bunch of the Art Blakey/Wynton/Williams CDs and wish I could have heard them live.

 

James has some great oringinals too. Alter Ego has been covered numerous times by Roy Hargrove, Kenny Barron, and much more. I also have his originals sheet music book and I love the songs.

 

Rip James.

www.brianho.net

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/brianho

www.youtube.com/brianhojazz

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great post, Dave. Although it has been a while, I'm sorry for your loss, though glad to see what a cool relationship you had with him. I know nothing of JW, but I will look up his stuff now.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. Williams definitely serves his own thread! He was an exemplary pianist and composer. I'm glad to hear he was also a a good man and a good friend, Dave.

 

I've transcribed a couple of his tunes with Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and plan to transcribe more. Here's us trying Say Dr. "J" for the first time.

 

[video:youtube]

 

I'd be interested in discussing transcriptions, info, or tips on his playing style and compositions. His music deserves a wider audience.

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great recount and stories of one of my favorie piano players. I have a bunch of the Art Blakey/Wynton/Williams CDs and wish I could have heard them live.

 

James has some great oringinals too. Alter Ego has been covered numerous times by Roy Hargrove, Kenny Barron, and much more. I also have his originals sheet music book and I love the songs.

 

Rip James.

Can you pass on the title and ISBN number of the book, bhodaway? I'd heard there was a book but haven't been able to track it down. Thanks!

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I met James Williams briefly a very long time ago. When I was in the military the director of the the jazz band, Lou Letson, was friends with him and invited him to play at one of our concerts. I believe there was a party after the concert at Letson's house and I spoke with JW at more length there.

 

This was a very long time ago. (Lou Letson died at a relatively young age of a brain tumor.)

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DF, thanks for sharing your memories. It doesn't take long for good people to leave a favorable and lasting impression.

 

Interestingly, James Williams found opportunities after getting to Boston and hooking up with the late, great drummer Alan Dawson. Both cats are known for their respective talent but moreso for teaching other musos.

 

I've transcribed a couple of his tunes with Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and plan to transcribe more. Here's us trying Say Dr. "J" for the first time.

Very nicely done mayne. I dig it. :thu::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've transcribed a couple of his tunes with Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and plan to transcribe more. Here's us trying Say Dr. "J" for the first time.

Very nicely done mayne. I dig it. :thu::cool:

Thank you, ProfD! :)

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for recounting that, Dave. I saw James live about 12 years ago with the Pharaoh Saunders Quartet at Yoshi's. James stole the show, imo.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hip me to JW.

 

What would you recommend to listen to of his recorded material? It doesn't matter to me if he's the leader or not, just good stuff or something that represents him well.

 

Thanks!

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I only have a minute has I'm being called to dinner here...but definitely check what James was the most proud of-- The fact he was able to get his two heroes, Ray Brown and Elvin Jones, into a recording studio together for the first time ever.

 

Magical Trio 2.

http://www.amazon.com/Magical-Trio-2-James-Williams/dp/B000KJAPMY

 

They made a reprise in 2000 which I haven't hear but assume like #2 is great. Also if you can find it -- JW meets the Saxophone Masters.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=5163

 

When I get a minute after dinner I'll throw out some more....

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

{Edit: I just realized that this thread is a split from the Jazz Piano Book thread - didn't mean to bore folks with my one and only JW anecdote again! }

 

I was fortunate that my piano teacher in college, Janet Reeves, and her husband, Scott Reeves, who now teaches at SUNY, were friends with James Williams.

They brought him to USM (University of Southern Maine), where I studied, and he did a master class with the jazz piano majors. The next day, he did several one-on-one lessons, and I was fortunate to have a half hour with him.

As I mentioned over in another thread, I learned quite a bit from him in that half hour (maybe it was more, but it was 20 years ago!). I still have a recording of the lesson. I'll have to dig it out again.

He was a very hip player, and really a nice, nice guy to a young aspiring jazz pianist.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hip me to JW.

 

What would you recommend to listen to of his recorded material? It doesn't matter to me if he's the leader or not, just good stuff or something that represents him well.

 

Thanks!

I really like JW's playing on the album One By One - Art Blakey and Jazz Messengers. Wynton's on that album too. Williams gives a master class in comping on the title tune and his composition Soulful Mr. Timmons, a tribute to another famed Messenger pianist. (BTW - Blakey had a gift for spotting potentially great pianists. I've yet to hear an AB&tJM pianist that wasn't superlative! Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Monk, Mulgrew Miller, Geoff Keezer, the list goes on and on!)

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The following URL searches the Jazz Discography Project's database for references to James Williams CLONK HERE. It shows 42 references and I'm sure there are more.
Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's JW tune from "Magical Trio 2" w/ Ray Brown & Elvin Jones...I don't think James would mind if I put this up here...enjoy.

 

"Roadlife"

http://www.divshare.com/download/10021781-403

 

I would try to get your hands on this CD if possible.

 

The Stuff of James I have on LP are:

I believe his first record--"Everything I love" on Concord

 

"Alter Ego" on Sunnyside

 

The "JW Trio-The Arioso Touch" also on Concord.

 

On CD:

Magical Trio 2

 

JW Live at Maybeck Recital Hall --solo piano-- on Concord

 

JW meets the Saxophone Masters--George Coleman/Joe Henderson/Billy Pierce/James Genus/Drummer Tony Reedus (James's cousin who unfortunately passed away last year) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, BURNIN' :thu: I'm listening to this has I type--just great!

 

Another project was equally has proud of was his JW & ICU-- "Truth, Justice & the Blues". With two vocalists and Saxophonists Billy Pierce & Steve Wilson.

I was told James's last public performance was with this group.

 

Has a sideman Trumpeter Tom Harrell's classic CD from '89 on the Contemporary label, "Sail Away".

 

A lot of these are out of print and may be difficult to find.

 

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I may have already posted my memories of James in Dave's original thread. Besides recordings, I heard him with Art Blakey once and later in a trio concert where we met briefly.

 

Small world: I mostly knew James in a peripheral sort of way, but our mutual connections/friends used to cross paths constantly. I did gigs with several players from that Blakey band, and a CD with drummer Alan Dawson. So for a while there, it seemed like practically everybody I ran into knew James. He was well liked and he is missed.

 

I was fortunate that my piano teacher in college, Janet Reeves, and her husband, Scott Reeves, who now teaches at SUNY, were friends with James Williams.

Hey muzikteechur, great that you had that experience. 'Small world' continues re: Scott and Janet. I just put a link to Scott's book in that Jazz Theory Book thread a few days ago.

 

We had a quartet in the 80's, before Scott moved to Maine. He included an old tune of mine "Saudado" on his "You Are What You Think" CD with Kenny Werner - quite surreal to hear Kenny play his absolute butt off on a tune I'd all but forgotten. Scott is an excellent educator, player and 'all round' good guy.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you pass on the title and ISBN number of the book, bhodaway? I'd heard there was a book but haven't been able to track it down. Thanks!

 

Hey Monk, here is the book :

 

http://assets.sheetmusicplus.com/product/120X160/2894246.gif

 

ISBN 0793532566

 

It's piano solo arrangements of his songs and not in lead sheet format. I really like "Alter Ego" and wanted to hear what his other songs sounded like. Recommended book!

 

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/James-Williams-Solo-Piano/2894246

www.brianho.net

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/brianho

www.youtube.com/brianhojazz

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hip me to JW.

 

What would you recommend to listen to of his recorded material? It doesn't matter to me if he's the leader or not, just good stuff or something that represents him well.

 

Thanks!

I really like JW's playing on the album One By One - Art Blakey and Jazz Messengers. Wynton's on that album too. Williams gives a master class in comping on the title tune and his composition Soulful Mr. Timmons, a tribute to another famed Messenger pianist. (BTW - Blakey had a gift for spotting potentially great pianists. I've yet to hear an AB&tJM pianist that wasn't superlative! Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Monk, Mulgrew Miller, Geoff Keezer, the list goes on and on!)

 

+1!! I'm a huge Benny Green fan and he also played w/ Art and the messengers.

www.brianho.net

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/brianho

www.youtube.com/brianhojazz

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

I've transcribed Soulful Mr. Timmons (from the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger's album One By One), and Say Dr. J (from Reflections In Blue). They're lead sheets in PDF, and SDJ with voicings in Sibelius format. If anyone's interested shoot me a PM.

 

Cheers!

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...