Introducing ‘Lori Williams’
Acclaimed international Jazz vocalist Lori Williams is turning a corner. In possession of a most impressive resume as a performing artist, educator, songwriter, producer, vocalist and musical theatre actress, her reputation and level of respect are top shelf and unimpeachable. However, Lori is electing to let her hair down to pursue a more relaxed passion path in the realms of the Quiet Storm and R&B-leaning Soul-Jazz. Kicking off this current (and surely to evolve) direction is a special double-A sided single “I Like the Way You Talk (To Me)”, which she co-wrote with prolific Contemporary Jazz producer/keyboardist Bob Baldwin) banded with a tasty remix edit of her recent cover of the Isaac Hayes gem “Deja Vu” (made famous in 1979 by Dionne Warwick). Her 2017 released Promo CD (in rotation on radio stations worldwide and Sirius XM/Watercolors) has led into this release of her fourth album, Out Of The Box.
“When you reach the milestone of 50, many things begin to cross your mind,” Lori declares with a chuckle. “Out Of The Box is a deliberate breakaway from me being stereotyped as ‘Lori only does this’ – this being Straight Ahead Jazz. For me to be recognized and respected within that music has been quite an accomplishment; but there is more to me. Out Of The Box is a Neo-Soul Jazz project. When I hear my voice on these new songs, it’s a sound I really like. It’s feel good music with catchy lyrics that people can remember and walk away singing.”
“I Like the Way You Talk (To Me)” and “Deja Vu” showcase a lovely, tasteful sensuality from Lori that both men and women will appreciate. It is but the first of such love song collaborations that Lori has created with Bob Baldwin, a major player who is proving to be quite the simpatico contemporary partner for her writing style. “We’d known about each other for years but our paths never crossed,” she shares. “Then in 2016, we both recorded versions of the Ivan Lins’ classic “The Island.” He played both on his radio show ‘NewUrbanJazz Lounge,’ dropped me a line to tell me and we started talking. He invited me to sit in with him singing “The Island” at Rams Head in Annapolis and we really connected. I wanted to connect with Bob’s audience, which is comparable to artists I’ve sung background vocals for like Phil Perry, Angela Winbush and Maysa. Bob and I have been working together ever since.” That work includes a stunning and stellar 30th Anniversary performance celebrating Baldwin’s 30th anniversary as a recording artist.
Lori Williams already has three well-received CDs to her credit – all of which she self-produced: her highly personal 2010 debut Healing Within (featuring a cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me”), 2012’s triumphant Eclipse of the Soul (featuring “Mother Black Crow,” “Scream Freedom” and a cover of The Emotions’ Skip Scarborough-penned “Don’t Ask My Neighbors”) and 2016’s outstanding Behind the Smile, the title track revealing compassionate transparency into the heart and soul of Lori as a woman. “That song speaks to our current state of affairs as people…the way we sometimes go about life is almost by rote,” Lori laments. “Someone asks, ‘How are you,’ and you give a generic reply, ‘Fine.’ We’ve become immune to the needs and cares of the world and our neighbors. I want to know what’s really behind the smile…to be more cognizant of people and how they’re really feeling. I brought that approach to the whole CD.”
It was while Lori was doing radio at WHOV-FM/Hampton University that she also became close with musicians and professors in the Music Department who encouraged her to enter a talent show. Lori took 2nd Place at the “Budweiser Showdown” and got to record her song “What Have I Found In You.” Then she met Professors Effie Gardner and Bob Ransom, joined the vocal Jazz group and promptly fell in love with Jazz, haunting every club she could find. In 1988, Lori took a train to New York City to compete on TV’s “Showtime at The Apollo.” She sang “Summertime” from “Porgy & Bess.” The Jazz singer who has been Lori’s greatest living inspiration is Dianne Reeves. “She is my unspoken mentor. I look up to her.”
Today, many aspiring singers look up to Lori as well – be it in classrooms (currently Director of Vocal Music at Woodrow Wilson High School), the multiple church, community and concert choirs she conducts, or the international vocal clinics she runs. She has received many honors as an educator including the 2010 Vincent E. Reed Teacher of the Year. As a performing artist, Lori was nominated for a 2014 Helen Hayes Award as an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Resident Musical for her role as Ella Fitzgerald in “Ladies Swing the Blues: A Jazz Fable.”
Ultimately, it is her international work as a singer and clinician that most satisfies her and has brought the widest amount of recognition. With each performance in a new country come fresh admirers. Though her work has also included background and featured singing for artists such as Gospel’s Yolanda Adams and Walter Hawkins, R&B’s Howard Hewett, Tony Terry and The Blackbyrds, Contemporary Jazz’s Stanley Jordan, Nathan East, Norman Brown and Tom Browne, Traditional Jazz’s Slide Hampton, Terri Lyne Carrington and Winard Harper, and Tap Dance sensation Savion Glover, Lori is most focused on unveiling songs of love from her “dream book” for Out Of The Box in 2018.
“I am a woman of vision and hope,” Lori concludes. “Much of my music could very well have been written from a perspective of tragedy. I prefer possibility. My heart knows love is there and can be found.”
Excerpt of Bio By A. Scott Galloway -Music Journalist