Heart Song is the latest offering from the incomparable sax and flute man, Al Williams III. With a depth of tone and a freshness of sound that comes from years of playing with greats like Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria, Al has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, with JazzTimes noting the “poetic beauty” of his solos. In spring of 2008, Al signed with the Pacific Coast Jazz record label for the distribution and promotions of Heart Song.
A native of Philadelphia, Al has toured and recorded five albums with Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria and appears on Mongo’s Grammy Award winning album “Amanacer.” Al then joined high school and college buddies as an original member of Stanley Clarke’s School Days Band, recording three groundbreaking albums, “Modern Man,” “I Want to Play for You,” and “Stanley Clarke Live, ’76, ’77.”
Career highlights include making a movie soundtrack with guitarist Nils Lofgren and recording a one-hour concert on BET as a member of guitarist Grant Geisman’s band. Al has appeared at many jazz festivals around the world, most recently the International Jazz Festival in Fez, Morocco, and The Jazz Jam in Nashville, TN.
Al has three recordings under his own name, Never Too Late (1997), See for Yourself (2003), and his brand new release, Heart Song (2008).
Produced by the stellar musician John Stoddart, Heart Song contains eleven tracks of groovin’, soulful sax and flute propelled by the finest rhythm section players in the business. Guest stars include Spyro Gyra’s Scott Ambush (bass), and Tom Shuman (keys), who appear on the radio friendly “Skyline Drive,” a song penned by Ambush and Stoddart for this project. Midnight in Morocco, another highlight, has an irresistible groove and is supported by a must-hear performance by trumpeter Aaron Broadus.
Drummer/producer Eric Valentine makes a strong appearance on several tracks along with bassists Alex Al, David Dyson and Chris Kent. Gorgeous, soulful vocals are delivered by jazz festival headliner Ron Gutierrez and producer John Stoddart. Enjoy great performances by guitarist Michael Ripoll and a host of others and add to that a final mix by LA’s Dave Rideau. With song after song of brilliant sound, world-class playing, and grooves that just keep getting better with every listen, Heart Song by Al Williams III is a CD not to miss.
From The Washington Post:
“Saxophonist-flutist Al Williams III should land a lot of gigs on the smooth-jazz festival circuit this summer if his new CD, “Heart Song,” gets the airplay it deserves. After all, fans of the genre may regard it as picnic-perfect.
With the help of several guests, including vocalist Ron Gutierrez and Spyro Gyra’s Scott Ambush and Tom Schuman, Williams sails through this tuneful pop-jazz collection, conjuring moods sunny, seductive and groove-driven by turns. His versatility (on tenor, alto and soprano saxes, plus alto and C flutes) is certainly impressive. But unlike many of his peers, Williams is more interested in lyricism than in switch-hitting antics. His way with a ballad is particularly evident at the album’s close, during a sparse, flute-limned interpretation of the Gershwins’ “Someone to Watch Over Me.” A cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” and other contemporary tunes are similarly distinguished by Williams’s melodic finesse.
As for the guests, bassist Ambush and keyboardist Schuman help animate “Skyline Drive,” a funk-tinted showcase for Williams’s tenor, while crooner Gutierrez stirs up “quiet storm” atmospherics on “I’m Going to Love You.” The biggest assist, though, comes from John Stoddart, who plays three significant roles: producer, composer and vocalist. ”
~ Mike Joyce, The Washington Post