Smooth Jazz Radio Review:
I think everyone can agree that music written and performed from the heart is always going to have the most impact on those who listen. Al Williams III has delivered just such an offering with his latest release, Heart Song, a joyous and exuberant body of work that will entice and enchant from first note to last.
No novice to the Smooth Jazz world, Williams’ versatile sax and flute talents have been showcased most notably with Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria. JazzTimes has referred to his solos as having “poetic beauty;” indeed, and the beauty is front and center on Heart Song. Leading off the collection, the title track is refined and enthralling, truly delivered straight from the heart. You won’t want to miss Skyline Drive, a tune so expressive and delightful that you won’t want the ride to end. A strong, seductive melody and some dramatic trumpet work from Aaron Broadus help to make Midnight in Morocco another of the album’s stand out tracks.
As Williams’ himself states, “I look forward to experiencing and learning more about this wonderful human expression of music….” Heart Song is bound to leave listeners longing to experiencing more from Al Williams III. - Beth Lewis
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
We are listening to beautiful music, extraordinary music, from Al Williams. - Wolf Blitzer
Jazz Rendezvous South Africa:
This native of Philadelphia certainly paid his dues when touring and recording as part Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria band, he was also 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. On this outing he works with producer players John Stoddart and Spyro Gyra bassist Scott Ambush and has Spyro Gyra keyboard wiz Tom Schuman as one of the guest players.
What more can a sax and flute playing dude want when he records he third album and debut for his new label Pacific Coast Jazz, then add the rest of the impressive line-up of collaborators and one has a future hit on ones hands. The album produces the goods with driving, grooving and very soulful sounds for one to really enjoy. It is and album the will sit easily in the CD changer for quite some time. The album is available in South Africa through the retail network. - Eric Alan
The Hits Just Keep On Coming: Al Williams III serves up a sumptuous cover of 100 Ways (Pacific Coast Jazz), on which his luscious tenor sax colors sparkle. Another hallmark is Williams' inspired instrumentation, not to mention John Stoddart's crisp production. The tracks are mastered meticulously.
- Carol Archer
Sweet. That is precisely what Al Williams III’s latest record Heart Song is like working with three producers this time around who also played on the recording, keyboardist/programmer John Stoddart, Spyro Gyra’s bassist Scott Ambush and drummer Eric Valentine. Williams CD Heart Song is a catchy blend of R&B, smooth jazz, chillin’ Caribbean-fused funk and gorgeous soul.
After spending years as a saxophone player for such great artists as Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria, Williams not only shines on these songs, but also lets everyone else who played on the recording to shine. Maybe that is what makes Heart Song so sweet because everyone works for the good of the songs. Williams presents his intuitive saxophone playing right away with a visceral sense of smooth jazz and shares a keen instinct for melodic textures relatable to the sounds of Lin Rountree, Tim Cunningham and Walter Beasley.
He also does a splendid job of playing for smooth soul/R&B singers to lay down their vocal strips. It takes a great deal of versatility to play for the vocal harmonies in the melodic layers and to make space for the vocals to shine, which Williams does beautifully. The soothing vocals of Alyce Metallo on If You Really Need Me Now brings out the tune’s nectar textures. While the lingering R&B coolness in Ron Gutierrez’s register in I’m Going To Love You has a bewitching lilt and the soft soul coating of Michelle Riley Jones’ timbres in Holding Back The Years have a reflective tone. The music aligns with the vocals nicely, projecting these different shades of life.
The mid-tempo grooves of the title track Heart Song and Skyline Drive are boutiqued in complementing phases and warm, bubbly harmonies. The kailua cooling feel of Midnight In Morocco is bunkered by smooth honking trumpet rolls and relaxing saxophone toots. The fluttering rings of soothing keys bordering Sun Dance are buttered by wondrous flute patterns performed by Williams and Spanish-induced percussive beats that emote a springy zing into the melody. The instruments weld woozy wanderings and delicate curves along I Never Thought creating a mellow ambience and the twining of the flute and soft traipsing keyboards through Someone To Watch Over Me produce soothing esthetics and a lullaby aura that puts the listener immediately at ease.
Al Williams III is one of smooth jazz’s national treasures. His latest disc Heart Song is marquee by classic soul and R&B grooves and colonnade in smooth jazz pillars. A native of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, Al Williams III got it so right in Heart Song. This is as good as smooth jazz gets, totally caked in brotherly love and frosted in soothing esthetics. - Susan Frances
Fusion Flavours UK:
What can I say: excellent production and a finely balanced CD. Love it. - Steve Quirk
International Music Forum:
This is the latest release from Pacific Coast Jazz. Al has worked with some awesome musicians like Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria. Al’s sax playing has a Jazz-Crusaders feel like two lovers adrift on a hot LA night. Very romantic. - Geoffrey Totton
Smooth Jazz Therapy:
Heart Song is the latest offering from sax and flute man Al Williams III. Released on the Pacific Coast Jazz label, the album is produced by the multi talented John Stoddart and features eleven soulful tracks all underpinned by the some of the finest session payers around. This is Williams third solo project and follows his 1997 debut Never Too Late and See For Yourself which followed six years later. It signposts a continuation of what is now a decade long collaboration with Stoddart and is indicative of the depth of tone and a freshness of sound that Williams has cultivated during his many years of playing with greats like Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria.
A native of Philadelphia, Williams was an original member of Stanley Clarke’s School Days Band and in his early college years also rehearsed with the early incarnation of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. At that time the lineup was Corea, Stanley Clarke, Earl Klugh, Lenny White and Joe Farrell with Williams on saxes, flutes, oboe and bassoon. Later, Williams went on to tour, and record five albums, with Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria. He appeared on Santamaria’s Grammy Award winning CD, Amanacer, and Williams extended discography includes credits for his appearances with Nils Lofgren, Julia Nixon and Norman Connors.
Heart Song is a wonderful vehicle for Williams talents and with the help of several guests, including vocalist Ron Gutierrez and Spyro Gyra's Scott Ambush and Tom Schuman, he delivers a tunefully accessible collection that is often groove-driven, sometimes seductive and invariably melodic. Particularly pleasing is Williams sparse interpretation of Gershwin’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and his beautiful cover of the Simply Red worldwide hit ‘Holding Back the Years’. Both demonstrate Williams's melody filled finesse while the irresistible groove of ‘Midnight in Morocco’, complete with a great performance on trumpet from Aaron Broadus, makes it a highlight of the entire album.
Despite that, Smooth Jazz Therapy top tracks are the seductively smoky title cut and the luscious ‘Just Us’ where Williams on flute is a delight. Williams stays with flute for the invigorating ‘Sun Dance’, finds a stunning vibe for the chilled out ‘I Never Thought’ and then delivers all the rhythm and melody you will ever need with his version of the much covered James Ingram hit ‘One Hundred Ways’. As for the guests, bassist Ambush and keyboard player Schuman lend their expertise to Williams funk tinged ‘Skyline Drive’ and Gutierrez takes ‘I'm Going to Love You’ deep into quiet storm territory. Drummer Eric Valentine and guitarist Michael Ripoll, together with bassists Alex Al, David Dyson and Chris Kent, all provide strong contributions but the biggest asset throughout is John Stoddart who excels as producer, composer and vocalist. ‘Heart Song’ is a gem of a collection and comes highly recommended. - Denis Poole
All About Jazz:
Contemporary jazz saxophonist Al Williams, for his third release, Heart Song, has put out a satisfyingly varied set of romantic and sultry tunes. Williams' spacious and thick tenor saxophone is most successful on the uncluttered and beautiful "Holding Back the Years" (featuring John Stoddart on keyboards and vocals), while he is also able to get the juices flowing on the lightly arranged and gently driving "Skyline Drive," which also features Scott Ambush and Tom Schuman on bass and keyboards respectively. Williams' flute is hauntingly reminiscent of Peruvian pan pipes on the joyously Latin-tinged "Sun Dance." His penetrating soprano saxophone is joined by the amazing keyboards of Stoddart, while Ron Gutierrez's velvety voice is well suited for the slow and delicately paced "I'm Going To Love You." Closing with a beautiful flute/piano duet on the comforting standard "Someone To Watch Over Me," Williams shows that "smooth" does not have to mean slick. Heart Song is good stuff for the ears. - George Harris
Smooth Jazz Australia:
We are in receipt of your exceptionally fine works 'Heart Song' and it is exquisite! A silky smoothness with such a wonderfully light and breezy sense of direction that is just not present with many. Not only do I find 'Heart Song' to be a delightful and appealing tune, 'Skyline Drive' and "Midnight in Morocco' have a style that has encouraged me to add the first three tracks to our play list. Thank you for sending your CD and thanks again for significantly contributing to our format. - Sir Terence J Gaynon
The Washington Post:
If saxophonist Al Williams recorded “Never Too Late” to prove that he's just as talented as many of his better known contemporary jazz peers, he failed. Turns out he's a lot more talented than most. - Mike Joyce
Old Town Cryer:
Al Williams has become known for masterfully potent musicianship with style. For the budding young wind players out there, he will be a source of inspiration and a mentor. For the rest of us, he will simply be Al Williams, the gifted, brilliant star. - Spencer Hill