Williams, James, American pianist; b. Memphis, Tenn., March 8, 1951. He was influenced by 1960s soul and the gospel music of the African American church. He spent time working and studying in Memphis before heading to Boston in 1972 for a five-year stint as an instructor at the Berklee Coll. of Music. During this period he worked with a number of name artists including Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, and Clark Terry. His stay with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messen-
gers (1977-81) brought him his first taste of public and critical acclaim. During the 1980s and 1990s, he worked extensively as a sideman with players such as Bobby Hutcherson and Tom Harrell. He has fronted some impressive groups of his own and recorded a number of valuable albums in addition to producing the work of other artists (e.g., Harold Mabern, Donald Brown, Billy Pierce). An admitted student and purveyor of the music of Phineas Newborn Jr., he also leads the Contemporary Piano Ensemble, a group that includes his peers Harold Mabern, Geoff Keezer, and Mulgrew Miller, and is dedicated to fostering the legacy of Newborn and others of his ilk. His own style is marked by a prodigious technique, a fluent two-handed attack, and a rich harmonic knowledge that makes his music always sound fresh and engaging.
Alter Ego (1984); Progress Report (1985); Talkin’ Trash (1993); Up to the Minute Blues (1994); At Maybeck Recital Hall (1996); Truth, Justice, and Blues (1996).