JAZZ SPOTLIGHT : ****; JOE WILLIAMS; “Here’s to Life”; <i> Telarc</i>


If the rest of the album were totally blank, it would still be an essential purchase on the strength of the title tune that opens it. Rarely has there been a more consummate blend of singer, arranger, song and lyric. The honors are shared by Williams, Robert Farnon with his opulent strings and woodwinds, Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary. Credit also goes to producer John Snyder.

“Here’s to Life” is a poignant work, powerfully refuting the often-espoused theory that “they don’t write great songs like that anymore.” As icing on the cake, the recital ends with a reprise of the tune, this time accompanied by George Shearing on piano.

In between are luxuriant treatments of such standards as “When I Fall in Love,” “If I Had You,” “Young and Foolish” and “A Time for Love.” Farnon’s magnificent writing leaves room for brief solos by two of Britain’s finest soloists: Don Lusher on trombone, Roy Wilcox on alto sax and flute.


Clearly this was a case of mutual inspiration; the majesty of Farnon’s scores brought out the best in Williams. Recordings such as this are made not to grab a fast dollar but to last forever.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).