Pianist James Williams has worked in various formats since he first hit the national scene as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1977. The Memphis native has recorded and toured with his ICU band, presenting a crowd-pleasing mix of straight-ahead jazz, R&B and gospel influences. He put together the Contemporary Piano Ensemble -- a four-piano juggernaut with rhythm section -- that earned rave reviews on a national tour several years ago. He's released exquisite solo recordings, especially the 1996 Concord Jazz release James Williams at Maybeck.
But Williams seems to be at his best in trio settings, and over the years his Magical Trio series of recordings has been consistently excellent. The first Magical Trio release, in 1987, featured him in the company of legends Art Blakey and Ray Brown, and in 1988, the volcanic Elvin Jones stepped into the drum chair. Now, after a decade, Williams is kicking the Trio back into gear with a tour featuring his Magical Trio 2000 -- the great Billy Higgins on drums and extraordinary bassist Eddie Gomez.