|A young military man enters a room, spots a piano and sits down to fool around with it. In the middle of his one-man show the [real] piano player interrupts him. So he relinquishes his seat, grabs the bass leaning up against the wall instead and begins to caress the strings with amateur fingers. Enter a drummer and piano player from Boise Idaho and they want to know if this young blood is interested in playing with them at a gig later that night. He says yes and the next thing that he knows he's playing jazz for life. Sound like something written for the movie screen? Well welcome to the real life of bass player Freddie Williams, leader of the jazz band, the Freddie Williams Trio based right here in Washington DC. |
Many years later, Williams reflects on how it all started. "When I was going to school we had matinees at the Howard Theatre and all of the schools would empty themselves to catch the Howard stage show." It was there that the seeds for the love of jazz were planted. His early influences included jazz artists Earl Garner, Slam Stewart, Lyle Hampton and many more. William's journey to becoming a phenomenal jazz icon himself took him from learning the bass as he went along to earning a Masters in Music Education and teaching for 22 years in DC public schools. His last school was Kimberly Elementary in SE, where he also led the school band.
Williams didn't start off studying music in college that came after he was able to get a scholarship to Howard University. In fact he changed his major from architecture to music when returned from the service. He said that it wasn't until he received the $1000 scholarship in 1971 to go after his Masters degree that he was actually able to enjoy what he considered the luxury of being able to study without also putting in a hard day's work. "I could spend five to 10 hours in the library if I wanted to without having to go to a job. Because up until then I had to work all through school," admitted Williams.
His performance journal reads like a page right out of history as Williams takes a mental walk down memory lane to share with us some of the people and places that he encountered throughout the years. "I played with the Buck Clark Quintet and we went to New York, made records and played in Bird Land on 52nd and Broadway." It is during this part of our conversation that Williams very nonchalantly mentioned the fact that he was 70 years young. And I was definitely surprised, because the energy in his voice and the music on his CD does not give any hint. But after some thought I realize that the clarity of his musical vision and his fluid style could only come from years of experience. He admits that jazz had played a part in the retention of his all around youthfulness. "Music has it's way of doing that first to your mind and then to your physical body." And carrying the bass around certainly helps.
Jazz has taken Williams all around the world with performances in Europe and the Middle East. As his smile widens you can almost see the images flash through his mind as he reflected on the presence and power of music in his life. But after becoming a father of three (one daughter and two sons) Williams said he couldn't imagine being on the road with children so he stayed put and took a variety of jobs including being a taxi driver. But he always played jazz at night.
Together for a least three years now, the Freddie Williams Trio also includes Larry Scott on piano and Jay Jefferson/Percy Smith on drums. The group made their first CD (The Freddie Williams Three-0=Two,) live at B Smith's Restaurant in Union Station where they enjoyed a six-month run. Their self-produced CD is easy on the ears, stirring to the soul and jazzy from the heart.. Williams admits that playing with his two colleagues regularly keeps his love for jazz constant. "I have a great rapport with these guys and we all have good vibes together," he said. As Williams proves, it never hurts to have a little jazz in your bones. It's a good thing!
The Freddie Williams Trio perfor