A jazz/blues singer and dancer who enjoyed middling success in the '30s, Williams biggest claim to posterity had mostly to do with being in the right place at the right time: Miles Davis made his initial recordings on a Williams-led session. Davis's contribution was minimal--saxophonist Herbie Fields was the featured instrumentalist and bandleader--but the April 24, 1945 sessions for Savoy are the first known recorded examples of his playing, and important for that reason (if for no other). As for Williams, his career straddled jazz and vaudeville. He worked the TOBA circuit in his teens, and played in minstrel and vaudeville shows during the '20s and '30s. His nickname comes from his "legomania" style of dancing, which combined high leg kicks and various gyrations; the 1933 film Smash Your Baggage featured an example of his hyper-kinetic moves. As a singer his best known song was Bring it On Home. Williams also performed with several big-name jazz band leaders, including Fletcher Henderson and Chick Webb. He also recorded in 1945 with pianist Clyde Hart in a band that also included some of the first recordings of bebop pioneers Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. These and the Davis sessions were among his last; his performing career virtually ended soon after making those sides.
© Chris Kelsey /TiVo
© Chris Kelsey /TiVo
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Electronic - Released July 24, 2020 | Black Focus
Kamaal Williams’ second album this year, after he treated us in February to Live at Dekmantel Festival, the Dutch festival popular with fans of heavy electronic music. Proof that Williams’ talent which leads the London (nu-)jazz scene has become widespread. As Henry Wu, the nickname his grandmother gives him and his pseudonym when he dons his DJ cap, he believes he has recorded “his best album yet”. The album features ten jazz-funk tracks à la Herbie Hancock and, like Hancock who never shied away from traversing genres (the entire hip-hop scene can thank his track Rockit featuring Grand Mixer D.ST), Kamaal Williams unleashes his class in a stylistic maelstrom. Red-carpet grooves can be heard on the opening to the very Hollywood Street Dreams with strings from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, also present on Toulouse and 1989 (which all carry his name), furious jazz (Pigalle with Quinn Mason’s playful sax), but also house on Mr Wu, a nod towards the London broken beat scene led by Bugz In The Attic. The chaos reaches its climax on Save Me with its hip-hop beats and cosmic soul keys. Kamaal Williams saves the best for last with the great Hold On and the enchanting voice of Lauren Faith, known for her work with Kaytranada. Is Williams paving the way for a follow-up? © Smaêl Bouaici/Qobuz