Jessica Williams Biography
Jessica Williams is an American pianist and composer who has deep roots in the Jazz Tradition and has a style that draws on Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis.
She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 17, 1948. She was classically trained at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, beginning lessons at age seven.
She moved to Philadelphia during her teens and began playing with the great Philly Joe Jones, drummer for the Miles Davis Quintet.
She is a two-time Grammy nominee. In 1986, her album Nothin' But the Truth was nominated for a Grammy, and in late 2004, her album LIVE at Yoshi's Volume One was also nominated for a Grammy.
In her mid-twenties, she moved to California, where she played in the bands of Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon, Tony Williams, Stan Getz, Big Nick Nicholaus, Airto and Flora, Charlie Rouse, John Abercrombie, Charlie Haden, Leroy Vinnegar, and others.
She has released over 40 albums, including Time to Burn on Red and Blue (a trio w/ Dave Captein, Mel Brown); Some Ballads Some Blues on Red and Blue (a trio w/ Dave Captein, Mel Brown); Jessica Plays for Lovers on Red and Blue (solo piano); and Live at Yoshi's Vol. One and Two on Maxjazz (a trio w/ Ray Drummond, Victor Lewis).
She received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1984 and 1988); a Rockefeller Grant for composing (1989); the Alice B. Toklas Grant for Women Composers (1992), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1995.
She has been presented the keys to the city of Sacramento, California, also receiving four grants from the Sacramento Arts Commission. She has also been presented the Keys to the City of San Mateo, California. In 2002 she was chosen Artist of the Year in Santa Cruz County, largely for her free musical service for elder members of the community, and donating support to the Women's Shelter of Watsonville, California. In Europe, she scored Jazz Record of the Year for 2 consecutive years in the Jazz Journal International Reader's Poll.
Still, she is better-known in Europe and Japan than in the USA.
She has produced more than 200 original compositions; and she has recorded for Jazz Focus, Candid, Concord, Landmark-Fantasy, Timeless, Maxjazz, and her own company, Red and Blue Music. She also owns her own publishing company, JJW Music, and runs her own Internet CD mail-order business, jessicawilliams.com.
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, DC.