Joe Williams ‘That Kind of Woman’ / ‘Sentimental and Melancholy’ (Poll Winners) 4/5

joe-williamsBorn in Georgia, but moving to Chicago with his mother and grandmother at the tender age of three, a city with which the singer will forever be associated, Joe Williams began singing professionally as a soloist in 1937 when he was just nineteen years old. While most associated with both the Basie band and accompanying big bands, singer Joe Williams was a versatile musician who could adapt his sound to different contexts and so it proves on this pairing of albums that showcases above all else his balladry skills and therefore departs from his more famous recordings of the blues. The first album is probably the pick of the two and a personal favourite is a lightly swinging version of ‘Candy’ that Lee Morgan recorded a superb instrumental take of on a late 1950s Blue Note album. There is a slight Latin undercurrent to the percussion on ‘Day by Day’. possibly influenced here by Nat King Cole and his pair of Cuban albums. In general the music functions best when the rhythm section have to work up a sweat and this occurs on ‘For all we know’ with the subtle use of horns and additional flute. Indeed the rhythm section swings gently on ‘Love is the sweetest thing’ with Williams stretching the words and with impeccable phrasing. Joe Williams covers the whole range of the Great American Songbook here and in this case that means composers of the calibre of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, New Washington while even more contemporary writing duos of the time such as Bacharach and David are deployed to useful effect on the title track to ‘That kind of woman’. There is just enough variety in the tempi to keep the listener occupied throughout, but for long-time followers of Joe Williams this CD provides the opportunity to hear him in a slightly different light. A well presented inner sleeve provides a Downbeat review by Ralph Gleason, black and white photos of conductor Jimmy Jones and Joe Williams, full original album cover sleeve facsimiles. Quality music.

Tim Stenhouse