Jason D. Williams rocked the house at the American Music Research Foundation’s 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie festival.
And he can’t wait to do it again at the 2009 edition this weekend at Callahan’s Music Hall.
“A great memory I have is what a wonderful crowd it was,” says the Arkansas-born Williams, who now resides in Memphis, Tenn., — where he was the last artist who recorded for Sun Records — and is “flattered” by frequent comparisons to Jerry Lee Lewis.
“Up in that part of the country they seem to absolutely love boogie woogie and rockabilly. They’re really into it, and it’s great to play for people when they’re like that.”
Williams, 60, says that the secret to playing effective boogie woogie piano is all in the left or bass, hand. “It’s got to be strong and just keep the rhythm going,” he explains, citing influences such as Pete Johnson, Memphis Slim and Booker T. Lowery, as well as a number of rockabilly artists. But it was meeting Lewis that changed Williams’ life.
“He didn’t have a whole lot to do with boogie woogie,” Williams notes, “but his influence is more from a philosophical standpoint. He told me that music was like a canvas, and your fingers are the paint. I believed every word he said, and sure enough, when I went to the piano, I started pounding out everything with just high-energy feeling.”
Williams released his latest album, “Rockin’,” earlier this year. He’s currently working on a set called “Me and My Monkey,” which will be comprised entirely of songs about simians. But while he enjoys recording, playing live remains his passion.
“I know it sounds cliché,” Williams says, “but it’s all about the crowd and the energy I get from the people. And it’s completely different every time we take the stage, whether it’s playing boogie woogie at a festival or jazz at some corporate party. I love doing it all.”
The 11th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, featuring Jason D. Williams and Kelley Hunt, takes place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Oct. 2-3) at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Tickets are $25. Call (248) 858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.
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