Pianist Jessica Williams has died

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Two-time Grammy-nominated Jessica Williams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and classically trained at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. As a teenager, Williams moved to Philadelphia and began playing with Philly drummer Joe Jones.

Moving to San Francisco in 1977, Williams became the house pianist at famed jazz club Keystone Korner. She has also worked with Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon, Tony Williams, Stan Getz, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Charlie Rouse, John Abercrombie, Charlie Haden, Leroy Vinnegar and others.

Williams has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rockefeller Fellowship for Composition, the Alice B. Toklas Fellowship for Women Composers, and the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. She was a guest of honor on NPR Fresh air with Terry Grossand on Piano Jazz by Marian McPartland. She has also written music scores for PBS and HBO programs.

Williams has recorded more than 40 albums during her career, including eight on the Seattle base Original recordings label.

Famous for his absolute control of the keyboard, his wit and his solid sense of swing, the influence of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane was evident in many of Williams’ performances and recordings.

Jessica Williams – Love and Hate (2006)

Williams moved to Portland, Oregon in 1993, then later to Yakima, Washington. She created her own record and music publishing company in an effort to maintain control of her creative output.

Serious spinal problems forced Williams to undergo major surgery in 2012. The medical procedures and recovery were long, complicated and expensive. she ended up having to sell her beloved Yamaha piano.

A diagnosis of cancer came in 2017. Williams has tried to stay positive and active, posting on her website, “I’ve decided the best thing I can do for myself is do what I do and d ‘be who I am. I love my music, and I’ll be releasing new music soon and starting to play again. There’s a lot to do, and I’ll start slow, but speed alone isn’t enough. the music – the soul and the passion are I’m not done.

The music of Jessica Williams will be featured on Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest show on KNKX this Sunday, March 20 at 2 p.m.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Williams’ husband with funeral, medical and living expenses. Learn more here.

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