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Chris Williams gives audience all that jazz

Jazz vocalist Chris Williams and a band of six other musicians entertained the crowd Monday night in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret. Williams started off the night with an improvised blues number followed by a number of jazz classics, including “Come Fly With Me” and “Comes Love.” The band also featured Reed Gratz, professor of music, on keyboards./ photo by Jakeh Landrum

Jason Cox
Staff Writer

Award-winning jazz vocalist Chris Williams won over a roomful of fans by the end of his performance in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret Monday.

His smooth, refined performance and charismatic stage presence made for a thoroughly enjoyable show.

The set list for the night was composed of jazz standards widely known by listeners.

“Getting together and playing like this is like getting a group of friends together and telling a story that we all know,” Williams said.

“Everyone is able to turn the story in whatever direction they want to, but we all know how the story goes.”

The band supported Williams with great energy; their joy in performing the music was evident.

Williams was accompanied by Professor of Music Reed Gratz on piano, Latin jazz musician Ramon Banda on drums, Andrew Carney on trumpet, Greg Parman on saxophone and Bryan Brock on percussion.

“It’s fun to see the passion they have as they play,

Melissa Pachon, a junior liberal studies major, said. “As a soccer player, I know I wear my passion on my face as I’m out on the field. It was cool to see their passion as they played on stage.”

Williams performed well-known standards such as, “Comes Love” and “Come Fly With Me,” many of which can be heard on his album, “Premodernism.”

Williams and company also played “No Moon At All,” a song that Williams said he first fell in love with when he heard it on the Count Basie album featuring Joe Williams, “Breakfast Dance and Barbecue.”

The tune is musically dark and isolating as Williams sings the image of a moonless night into the collective imagination of the audience.

One of the last songs on of the night was a fan favorite, “Pure Imagination,” best known from the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Before the song began, Williams shared the story of a 4-year-old girl he met at a show in Canada whom he thinks of when he performs this song, because when he asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she said, “a pony.”

“It’s kind of different from what you might usually hear, but it’s a lot of fun to be able to play with Chris when we have the chance,” Professor of Music Reed Gratz said.

Canadian-born Williams began singing gospel music at his church in Calgary, Albert when he was a child. The singer has been performing professionally since he was 15. He has toured across the United States, Canada and Europe.

At 32, Williams’ many awards include a Best Latin Song at the 2007 Orange County Music Awards as well as four vocal solo awards at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

He has been called a “Fabulous Find” by KLAC radio as he performs straight-ahead and bebop jazz while infusing new twists into the established standards.

Williams, with some of band members who performed here will perform again together on Oct. 30 at the Hip Kitty in Claremont.

Jason D. Cox can be reached at

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