Smooth, easy and dramatic piano
Anyone who's spent time combing thrift-store record bins will recognize Roger Williams' name, if not his music. Williams made his mark on the charts as an easy listening pianist with a string of instrumental hits that spanned the rock 'n' roll years of the late 50s and early 60s. His best-known release, "Autumn Leaves," leads off this 12-track collection with atmospheric piano arpeggios that echo the flutter of falling foliage. ¶ Williams second hit, "Almost Paradise," was borrowed from the pen of Buddy Holly producer Norman Petty, and sets dramatic chording against a backing chorus and full orchestration. Williams also worked some of the same songbooks as exotica musicians like Martin Denny, but with a more lush sound. His arrangement of "Yellow Bird" is playful, with strings and bongos supporting Williams' piano runs, but doesn't capture the island breeze of Arthur Lyman's then-contemporary hit. ¶ Like others in the piano instrumental trade (notably, Ferrante & Teicher), Williams also had success with stage and movie themes. His renditions of the title theme to "Born Free," West Side Story's "Maria," Dr. Zhivago's "Lara's Theme," and Man of La Mancha's "The Impossible Dream" kept his name on the pop and adult contemporary charts throughout the. Williams continued to produce vital movie music into the 1980s, as evidenced by his soundtrack performance of John Barry's title song to "Somewhere in Time." ¶ Late-90s c*cktail culture made lounge stars of Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and others, while Roger Williams seems to have been mostly overlooked. Geffen's collection provides a concise introduction to his playing that combines jazz, classical and pop sounds into a sometimes showy, but quite appealing blend.
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