Jazz musicians of any renown will eventually tour and record in Japan, but Midge Williams must be the only American artist whose recording career actually began there. She recorded in both Japanese and English in the '30s, working with local groups in China as well as Japan - all signs of the accomplished versatility that would later make her in demand with great jazz bandleaders such as Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, and Teddy Wilson. This singer was not always content to be a vocalist in someone else's band, no matter how big their names were, so she also fronted her own group known as Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters.
A new album release by guitarist John Williams is always cause for great anticipation, not only for another opportunity to marvel at his virtuosity, but also to experience music from unheralded areas of the repertoire. EL DIABLO SUELTO is a survey of the guitar music of Venezuela, a vibrant mixture of elements from the cultures of the indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and the Africans originally brought to the country as slaves. Williams demonstrates a thorough understanding of the music's heritage, and his commitment is evident in performances that are dynamic and incisive. Williams' remarkable technique allows him to easily negotiate the complexities of these intensely rhythmic pieces, but his keen musical intelligence renders these accounts more than exercises of technical expertise. He skillfully wields a broad palette of tonal colors to express the rich harmonic language and beautiful melodies in works arranged by his mentor, the great Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Diaz.