Patrice Williamson – My Shining Hour
My Shining Hour
by R. Redmond
Patrice Williamson shines on this characteristic mix of American standards. Covering material written by the likes of Arlen and Mercer, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin (with an original piece by Patrice), this album ranges from ballads and burning be-bop to swinging standards and sensual bossa novas. Often vocalists sing standards to get a better response from the audience…if you sing a song that everyone likes, they are more likely to like your singing. The drawback to this theory is that everyone also has an expectation of what the song should sound like…if you butcher it everyone knows! Patrice manages to combine her amazing energy with innovative arrangements that keep you interested and involved in the music. If ‘My Shining Hour’ is any indication of things to come, Patrice Williamson will string many ‘Shining Hours’ into a luminous career.
Named “Best Jazz Vocalist” in Boston Magazine’s 1997 “Best of Boston” awards, the talent and versatility of Patrice Williamson cannot be overstated — accomplished musician and composer, veteran of numerous clubs and festivals, graduate of the University of Tennessee and New England Conservatory of Music.
Boston has been good to the young singer, who left her native Memphis in 1992 to pursue jazz studies at New England Conservatory with award-winning, RCA Victor Recording Artist Dominique Eade. When NEC offered her a place in its prestigious Artist Diploma program in 1994, she accepted – on the condition that she first be allowed to complete a scheduled four-month engagement at Somerset’s Bar of the Westin Hotel in Singapore, that country’s premier jazz venue. A string of successful appearances include The Regattabar, the Gardner Museum’s “Jazz at the Gardner” series, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Concert Series, the Hatch Shell, the IDB Cultural Center’s Concert Series in Washington, D.C. , Tanglewood, Jordan Hall, and Symphony Hall. Praise for Williamson’s instrument – and the way she uses it – comes readily from some of the biggest names in the Boston jazz scene. Says Dominique Eade, “Patrice is a hard-swinging interpreter and a refreshingly accomplished jazz vocal improviser.” Ran Blake, head of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, agrees. “It’s a breathtaking voice,” he says.
Given the assured fluency of her jazz styling, audiences would never guess that Williamson’s first musical endeavors were classical. She began studying the violin at age 4, and the flute at age 11. As an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, she was principal flutist for both the Opera and Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t until the conductor of the UT Studio Jazz Orchestra overheard her singing during a rehearsal break, and immediately offered her a solo, that she considered singing as a possible career. Her reception was so positive that, encouraged by jazz pianist Donald Brown of the UT Faculty, she headed for Boston to focus full-time on her voice.
From all appearances that decision was a wise one. Boston audiences can happily attest to what Tennesseans have known for quite a while — the talent of Patrice Williamson is for real!
Helen Sung – Piano
Christian Bausch – Bass
Phil Grenadier – Trumpet
Ron Savage – Drums