Remembering James Williams

From The Piano Stylist, April-May 1989

James Williams (1951-2004) came from Memphis. He went to Central High School and was a student, rehearsing with his jazz band, when he and his friends heard of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in their city. Williams played organ in the Eastern Star Baptist Church and graduated from Memphis State University, then moved to Boston and taught at Berklee, served as a Jazz Messenger from 1977-81 (these dates from the Wikipedia page in his name), and in 1984 moved to Brooklyn. I met him at his apartment at 393 Tenth Street (“F [train] to Fourth, near Fifth” say my notes). Wearing a lovely light blue chenille robe, he welcomed me and from that moment I have been gratefully attached to James Williams.

The Piano Stylist notes say the arrangement comes from a concert at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, “to be aired in full on The American Jazz Radio Festival on National Public Radio in early May. Check your local NPR station for the broadcast date and time.”

David Karp typeset the music (no Sibelius). Suki Koczeniak designed the page (no Pagemaker). Ed Shanaphy had the idea for and published The Piano Stylist, consultant Stuart Isacoff. Editing it was a wonderful assignment that required me to find and meet dozens of pianists, among them James, still greatly missed but available via this majestic (see tempo marking) presentation which I hope some of you can also play!

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