Jessica Williams (musician)

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Jessica Williams
Jessica williams piano.jpg
Williams in 2007
Background information
Born (1948-03-17) March 17, 1948 (age 70)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Genres Jazz, Electronic
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano, synthesizers, trap drums, organ, Contrabass
Years active 1960s–present
Labels Red and Blue, Candid, Concord, Maxjazz, Timeless, Hep, Jazz Focus

Jessica Williams (born March 17, 1948) is an American jazz pianist and composer.

Early life[edit]

Jessica Jennifer 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.

She began performing jazz in her teens, playing with Richie Cole , Buck Hill, and Mickey Fields. Her main influences were not pianists but horn players, most notably Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Williams was born with A.I.S., or Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, an intersex condition in which there is a partial or complete inability of many cells in the affected genetic male to respond to androgenic hormones. A.I.S. is the largest single entity that leads to 46,XY undermasculinized genitalia. Not known in medicine at the time of her birth, she was misgendered as male in 1948. The double-helix model of DNA structure was first published in the journal Nature by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, five years after her birth.

After a series of tests, she began hormone therapy to become fully female in 1967, and had Sex Reassignment Surgery, now referred to as Gender Correction Surgery, on March 2, 1976, at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Her surgeon was Dr Terrence Malloy. Jessica also had Facial Feminization Surgery, with Dr Douglas K. Ousterhout at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CA.

Musical career[edit]

After corrective surgery, she 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.[1]

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

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

She 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 acclaimed Piano Jazz Show on NPR, as well as being interviewed by the BBC in Brecon, Wales.

Jessica Williams now lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest, and no longer does jazz tours. She continues to make new music, including electronic music and neoclassical music, and remains a lifelong advocate of Civil Rights, particularly Trans Rights.

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 (Clean Cuts)
  • 1986 Nothin' But the Truth (BlackHawk)
  • 1990 And Then, There's This (Timless)
  • 1992 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 21 (Concord Jazz)
  • 1993 Next Step (Hep)
  • 1993 Arrival (Jazz Focus)
  • 1994 Momentum (Jazz Focus)
  • 1994 Song That I Heard (Hep)
  • 1994 In the Pocket (Hep)
  • 1994 Encounters (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Inventions (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Joy (Jazz Focus)
  • 1995 Intuition (Jazz Focus)
  • 1996 Gratitude (Candid)
  • 1996 Jessica's Blues (Jazz Focus)
  • 1996 Victoria Concert (Jazz Focus)
  • 1997 Higher Standards (Candid)
  • 1998 Encounters, Vol. 2 (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 (Maxjazz)
  • 2003 All Alone (Maxjazz)
  • 2004 Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 1 (Maxjazz)
  • 2004 The Real Deal (Hep)
  • 2005 Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 2 (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. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Jessica Williams | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 

External links[edit]