“Music and medicine have had a long and fascinating association…belief in the healing powers of music…has been strikingly persistent in many world cultures. Dr. Richard Allen Williams is a personification of that linkage. A professor of medicine at UCLA and editor of the pioneering “Textbook of Black-Related Diseases”, he has also been a jazz trumpeter for most of his life." This quote from an article in the Los Angeles Times by Jazz Critic Don Heckman written after Mr. Heckman heard a performance by Dr. Williams and his straight-ahead jazz quintet at Spazio in Sherman Oaks, California captures the essence of his uniqueness not only as a top cardiologist but also as an outstanding trumpet player who has been heard only rarely by the general public because of the demands of his medical responsibilities. Recently, he decided to give in to the numerous requests to “go public” and to record a sampling of his talent, and so this is his first CD produced as his “maiden voyage”.
His background in music is truly amazing. He was born and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware where he attended Howard High School as an underclassman behind the immortal trumpet genius Clifford Brown, who mentored him in the rudiments of jazz. During that time, he sat in at jam sessions with the late vibraphonist Lem Winchester, also from Wilmington, and later as a 16-year-old freshman pre-medical student at Harvard, he met and was musically influenced by the legendary Miles Davis. Clifford and Miles became the dominant influences on his playing style; as Jazz Critic Heckman further remarked, “Williams’ youthful association with Brown had an unmistakable effect on his playing, as did his affection for the work of Davis…his soloing captured the lyrical and rhythmic qualities of these influences, enhanced by his own obvious passion for both the science and the art of improvisation.” Accordingly, Dr. Williams has dedicated several of the tunes recorded here to his two main influences: I Remember Clifford, Joy Spring, and Delilah to “Brownie”, and Dig to Miles.
Over the years, he has been fortunate to appear as a background player behind Billie Holiday; with legendary tenormen Ben Webster, Herman Riley, and Rasaahn Roland Kirk; and with flutist Hubert Laws. He has performed in Paris, Rome, Switzerland, Rio, and many other international venues. Recently, he played a special sold-out performance at Birdland in New York with former Jazz Messengers Javon Jackson on tenor sax, Peter Washington on bass, and the late John Hicks on piano, with Lewis Nash on drums.
Accompanying Dr. Richard Allen Williams as members of the RAW Sugar Quintet on this CD are the prodigious bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin, who has played with trumpeters Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Oscar Brashear, and Hugh Masakela (listen to him on Masakela’s Gold Record-winning “Grazing in the Grass”); pianist Nate Morgan, formerly with singer extraordinaire Chaka Kahn and Rufus; the awesome tenor saxophonist, flutist, and clarinetist Justo Almario, a native of Colombia who migrated to the U.S. several years ago and has played with Mongo Santamaria, Charles Mingus, Freddie Hubbard, George Duke, Tito Puente, and Roy Ayers, among others (Justo is the exclusive soloist on clarinet on the pristine Jitterbug Waltz); and the dynamic drummer Fritz Wise, a direct musical descendent of the esteemed Billy Higgins who has performed with Kenny Burrell, George Cables, Teddy Edwards, and Horace Silver. All of these world-class heavyweights are leaders on their own, and it is a measure of their esteem and appreciation of Dr. Williams’ abilities that they were enthusiastic about making this recording with him.
Dr. Williams quips that he has two mistresses, music and medicine, and they are interwoven into his soul in a way that allows him to satisfy the demands of both; he derives pleasure, strength, and calmness from music which stimulates his accomplishments in medicine that have allowed him to reach the greatest heights in his field and to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Harvard Medical School.
Listen to this special recording by Dr. Richard Allen Williams and see if you don’t agree that “The Doctor is truly IN”!!
AGENDA OF TUNES:
2. On the Trail
6. I Remember Clifford
7. Joy Spring
8. Jitterbug Waltz
All rights reserved, SP Records 1008
Recorded at the Nolan Shaheed Studio, Pasadena, California, September 23, 2007
Dedicated to Clifford Brown on his 75th birthday
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