I have just wrapped up a project that gave me enormous pleasure, writing the notes for Jessica Williams’ next CD, recorded in a solo concert at The Seasons. I’ll let you know when it is available. Talking with Jessica, I learned that her music and her life are changing and that another remarkable pianist, Glenn Gould, is playing a major role in the transition. (See this Rifftides posting involving Gould).
It seems unlikely that one of the major living jazz pianists will leave the field, but that’s how Ms. Williams is talking, and how she recently wrote about jazz in her web log.
I now avoid the word. I bracket it in quotation marks. I have come to dislike the word. The word itself derives from roots that hold disrespectful and flatly barbaric connotations for me. I do not feel like a jazz musician. I do not know what that is anymore.
Perhaps I am too sober. Being a non-drinker and a non-smoker, having left all of my nasty little vices and habits behind, I don’t often feel comfortable around true “jazz buffs”. When I play festivals (which I do with much less frequency than before) I feel as though I’m at a really big, loud party where everyone is having an absolutely great time but me. The wine is flowing and the smoke is blowing and the drums are banging and the bass is twanging and I feel totally displaced.
I have either moved away from it or it has moved away from me.
There is much more about this in Jessica’s blog piece. I, for one, would be disappointed if she left jazz behind, but I will listen to anything she plays. There are indications of her new direction in that forthcoming Seasons CD, along with generous portions of–you should pardon the expression–jazz. There were no banging drums at the concert. There was no twanging bass. Wine did not flow, but it was sipped. Everyone did have an absolutely great time. Maybe even Jessica Williams.
I heard Jessica Williams some years ago doing her first solo concert in Scandinavia for 150 people without drinks or cigarettes and I think we all were happy.
As smoking in public areas is banned in one country after another, I hope Jessica will keep on doing jazz concerts – or whatever you call this music – in the solo format I prefer, and I believe people – at most – will be sipping.
Gould is the best Gould, and Jessica Williams is the best Jessica Williams. I’d like it to be like that, forever.