Jessica Williams - Orgonomic Music 2xLP
Label: Modern Harmonic
Release Date: March 22nd, 2024
Williams was one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, but she was also a victim of geography. Her technical brilliance, complete control of the piano, creative imagination, wit, and constant desire to stretch herself put her at the top of her field although relatively few (beyond her fellow pianists) seemed to realize it during her lifetime.
Born and raised in Baltimore, she recorded her first three albums in her hometown. But other than a few lesser-known sets in Europe, a handful of albums for Jazz Focus in Canada and her Red & Blue label in Detroit, and just two projects in New York for the Max Jazz label, all of her recordings were made on the West Coast where she lived starting in 1976. Jessica was reluctant to travel much, particularly in her later years, and her visits to New York were rare so she was largely overlooked by East Coast critics.
Listeners who are only familiar with Jessica Williams' later work where she is generally heard with a trio or as a soloist stretching out mostly on standards (although focusing more on originals on her own small label's releases) will be surprised by Orgonomic Music. The pianist heads a septet, the largest group on any of her many recordings. While Jessica plays some stunning lines on the piano, the emphasis is as much on her writing as on her playing, and each of the other musicians get opportunities to have their say.
Orgonomic Music, which was released by the small Clean Cuts label in 1981, has been out of print for decades. The original eight selections (six of the pianist's originals, one piece by Stone, and John Coltrane's "Dear Lord") are joined by two previously unreleased performances.