Brighton Jazz School is dedicated to James Williams 1951-2004


Like so many people, I was fortunate to have been able to meet and be friends with the late James Williams. Although its been 6 years since his passing, I find myself thinking about him almost everyday. As well as being a world-class jazz pianist, composer and educator, he was a humanitarian and supporter of the human spirit. He touched so many people's lives both with his music and his kind, generosity and dedication to jazz and people. 

All James wanted to do was to make music, promote the music of under-appreciated musicians such as Phineas Newborn, and nurture and support younger musicians coming up.

I met James just before my 17th birthday at a gig I happened to be doing in Surrey. We ended up hanging out at the hotel until 4 in the morning talking about music and sports (he loved basketball). Since then until his passing in July 2004 he was a constant encouragement and inspiration to me. We would often exchange phone calls at 3/4am after gigs. He would say, 'man, I just saw Mulgrew at the Vanguard, he is such a first class act'. He was a true ambassador, student, practitioner and innovator of the music. All of his albums reflect a deep understanding of the tradition of jazz piano and yet they also have an timeless quality. His projects were so diverse, from trios featuring Ray Brown and Elvin Jones (a rare combination first done by Newborn on Harlem Blues) to his ICU band and his work with the Boys Choir of Harlem. He performed with the worlds greatest including Art Blakey, Dizzy, Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Elvin Jones, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, and so many more....


He also found time to devote to younger players like myself. He let me sit in during a Pizza Express gig in London when I was 18 when Jeff Tain and Joey Calderazzo came from their gig with Wynton to hear JAMES play... James also ran a production company called Finas Sounds Inc. which produced albums for Phineas Newborn, Harold Mabern, Donald Brown and others. He also made Geoffrey Keezer's first album and introduced hm to Art Blakey (Geoffrey then went on to be the last pianist in the Jazz Messengers)

I will always be in debt to him and I miss him terribly. Please share your fond memories of James here. This is a celebration of his music, his life and his spirit!

Please join the James Williams Memorial Page I setup on Facebook: