Music to Your Ears
If you've been paying attention you already know that Club Rhythm and Blues (3523 Central NE) is reopening on March 4. This is a huge and wonderful announcement for local performers and music connoisseurs alike. Along with a regular line-up of great acts and open mic nights, Club R&B will feature its New Artist Series, hosted by yours truly.
Although she's been considered a significant presence on the jazz scene for decades, Jessica Williams doesn't enjoy the name recognition she deserves. Following years spent playing piano with the Philly Joe Jones Quartet and sharing stages with such luminaries as Bill Evans, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Sarah Vaughn, McCoy Tyner and a host of others, not to mention her extensive discography, Williams remains largely under-recognized outside of critics and rabid fans of classic bop-influenced keyboard work.
With chops that invoke the playing of Thelonious Monk and an incredible command of the keyboard, Williams based herself in San Francisco in the late '70s, where she established herself as a powerful musical force. Inexplicably, she disappeared from record for a short time, only to re-emerge in the '80s as an acoustic soloist. And while generally identified within the bop idiom, Williams' latest album, the demure, hauntingly lovely Plays for Lovers (Red and Blue Records), is a quiet tribute to relaxing at home either with a lover or with a lover on the mind. Nine of the album's 11 tracks are jazz standards (the exceptions are John Lennon's "Love is Real" and her own "Flamenco Sketches), and all of them feature Williams alone at her piano, performing the music as though she were at home.
The Dolly Ranchers
Sunday, March 7; AMP House Concert (all ages, 6:30 p.m.): Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, welcome to one of the craziest shows on Earth. Feast your eyes on four ladies who know what putting on a captivating show is all about ... the Dolly Ranchers have all their bases covered when it comes to rockin' a crowd and getting a rip-roarin' hoe-down started.
Jesse Cook Nomad (Narada World)
It would be easy to write "noveau" flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook off as the acoustic guitar world's Kenny G—a Paco de Lucia for soccer moms. But Cook's versatility, polished technique and visceral command of Middle Eastern, Indian, Spanish and Moorish music make him far more intriguing than your average cracker with an instrument and the ability to make middle-aged white women swoon as if they're having some kind of cross-cultural epiphany. That's not to say that Cook doesn't employ a certain degree of the cheese factor, just that his music is worthwhile even as far as audiophiles are concerned.