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Joe Williams: A Song is Born

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Joe Williams: A Song Is Born

Current Status:
In Season
Joe Williams, George Shearing

We gave it a B

Simply because Joe Williams is — as the latest Down Beat critics’ poll indicates — the preeminent male jazz vocalist working today, the release of his first new video in nearly a decade is an event. Whether caressing the words of the ballad ”A Child Is Born” or taking a more astringent, declamatory approach on his tour de force, ”The Comeback,” Williams’ musical instincts are unerring. You can overlook the roughness that, at age 73, occasionally crops up in Williams’ voice on this tape (a live performance at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, Calif.). Harder to overlook, though, is the incongruously genteel piano accompaniment of George Shearing, which undermines the impact of Williams’ exuberantly sexual blues numbers. Pairing Williams with Jay McShann, Gene Harris, or the Basie Band would pack greater wallop. But Joe Williams: A Song is Born will have to do, until the real thing comes along. B