Jessica Williams (musician)

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Jessica Williams
Williams in 2007
Williams in 2007
Background information
Born(1948-03-17)March 17, 1948
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedMarch 10, 2022(2022-03-10) (aged 73)
GenresJazz, Electronic
InstrumentsPiano, Synthesizers, Trap Drums, B3 Organ, Contrabass
Years active1960s–present
LabelsRed and Blue, Candid, Concord, Maxjazz, Timeless, Hep, Jazz Focus

Jessica Jennifer Williams (March 17, 1948 – March 10, 2022) was an American jazz pianist and composer.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 17, 1948. She started playing the piano at age four, began music lessons with a private teacher at five, and at age seven was enrolled into the Peabody Preparatory. She studied classical music and ear training with Richard Aitken and George Bellows at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

Williams showed an ability to see each note's color as she heard it, consistent with synesthesia. She discussed how this inspired her early interest in the piano in a televised interview with the BBC. Williams also had the ability to play anything she heard. At age twelve, she was listening to Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus. She knew she was destined to become a jazz pianist.

Williams began performing jazz in her teens, playing with Richie Cole, Buck Hill, and Mickey Fields. In a radio interview with Marian McPartland on NPR's Piano Jazz, she stated that her main influences were not pianists, but horn players, especially Miles Davis and John Coltrane.[1]

Musical career[edit]

In June 1976, Williams began performing regularly with the "Philly Joe" Jones band in New Jersey, and with Lex Humphries in Philadelphia and New York City, before moving to the West Coast in October 1976.[2]

In 1977, Williams moved to San Francisco, where she played in house bands at the Keystone Korner. She worked with Eddie Harris, Tony Williams, Stan Getz, Bobby Hutcherson, and Charlie Haden, eventually leading her own jazz trio, and recording regularly for several decades.

In 1997, Williams established her own record label, Red and Blue Recordings. She also started her publishing company, JJW Music/ASCAP, and an internet mail order business.

Williams appeared at the 2004 and 2006 "Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festivals" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She also appeared in festivals and venues worldwide, including The Purcell Room in London, The Bern Jazz Festival, The Monterey Jazz Festival, The New Morning in Paris, Spivey Hall in Georgia, and hundreds of other venues. She was a guest on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on NPR, as well as being interviewed by the BBC in Brecon, Wales.

In 2012, Williams had a Spinal fusion with internal instrumentation at Swedish Hospital's Neurosurgery Unit in Seattle, WA, and subsequently lost her ability to perform.[3] She lived with her husband in the Pacific Northwest, and no longer toured. She continued to make new music, including electronic music and neoclassical music, and remained a lifelong advocate of civil rights.


Williams died on March 10, 2022, a week before her 74th birthday.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

Williams from the album cover for The Real Deal (photo by E Arc)

Selected discography[edit]

  • 1976 Portal of Antrim (Adelphi)
  • 1978 Portraits (Adelphi)
  • 1979 Orgonomic Music (Clean Cuts)
  • 1980 Rivers of Memory (Clean Cuts)
  • 1982 Update featuring Eddie Harris (Clean Cuts)
  • 1986 Nothin' But the Truth (BlackHawk)
  • 1990 And Then, There's This (Timeless)
  • 1992 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 21 (Concord Jazz)
  • 1993 Next Step (Hep)
  • 1993 Arrival (Jazz Focus)
  • 1994 Momentum featuring Dick Berk and Jeff Johnson (Jazz Focus)
  • 1994 Song That I Heard (Hep)
  • 1994 In the Pocket (Hep)
  • 1994 Encounters featuring Leroy Vinnegar (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Inventions (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Joy featuring Hadley Caliman (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Intuition (Jazz Focus)
  • 1996 Gratitude (Candid)
  • 1996 Jessica's Blues featuring Jay Thomas, Mel Brown and Dave Captein (Jazz Focus)
  • 1996 Victoria Concert (Jazz Focus)
  • 1997 Higher Standards (Candid)
  • 1998 Encounters, Vol. 2 featuring Leroy Vinnegar (Jazz Focus)
  • 1998 Joyful Sorrow: A Solo Tribute to Bill Evans (BlackHawk)
  • 1999 In the Key of Monk (Jazz Focus)
  • 1999 Ain't Misbehavin' (Candid)
  • 2000 Jazz in the Afternoon (Candid)
  • 2000 Blue Fire (Jazz Focus)
  • 2001 I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (Hep)
  • 2001 Some Ballads, Some Blues (Jazz Focus)
  • 2002 This Side Up featuring Victor Lewis and Ray Drummond (Maxjazz)
  • 2003 All Alone (Maxjazz)
  • 2004 Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 1 featuring Victor Lewis and Ray Drummond (Maxjazz)
  • 2004 The Real Deal (Hep)
  • 2005 Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 2 featuring Victor Lewis and Ray Drummond (Maxjazz)
  • 2006 Billy's Theme: A Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor (Origin)
  • 2007 Unity (Red and Blue)
  • 2008 Songs for a New Century (Origin)
  • 2009 The Art of the Piano (Origin)
  • 2010 Touch (Origin)
  • 2011 Freedom Trane (Origin)
  • 2012 Songs of Earth (Origin)
  • 2014 With Love (Origin)

With Charlie Rouse


  1. ^ "Jessica Williams on Piano Jazz".
  2. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Jessica Williams | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Mahesh, B.; Upendra, B.; Vijay, S.; Kumar, G. A.; Reddy, S. (2017). "Complication rate during multilevel lumbar fusion in patients above 60 years". Indian Journal of Orthopaedics. 51 (2): 139–146. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.201704. PMC 5361463. PMID 28400658.
  4. ^ Origin Artist: Jessica Williams. In:, access date March 15, 2022.

External links[edit]