Piano man and arranger Keith Droste and jazz chanteuse Sherry Williams wrap the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series’ 13th edition with some sounds sweet, stirring and swinging.
Chicago native Droste, Berklee School of Music graduate and Oscar Peterson student, covers all the musical bases from jazz to Dixieland to Broadway. With Williams fronting the group, the result will be a night of tasteful and elegant jazz, where incomparable lyrics are matched with haunting melodies delivered by one of the best singers in the business. Songwriter Jack Segal (“Scarlett Ribbons,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” and “When Joanna Loved Me”) said of Williams, “She is the incomparable present-day combination of Lady Day [Billie Holiday], Sarah [Vaughan] and Ella [Fitzgerald].”
Williams weaves stories when she sings, with a voice that has been described as “buttery” and “sweeter than wine.” “I start with the lyrics,” said Williams, mentioning Kaye Lawrence Dunham and Marilyn and Alan Bergman as some of her favorite lyricists. “I love songwriters.”
On her website, www.sherrywilliamsmusic.com, Williams offers samples from her recordings. One, “On My Way to You” (Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Michel Legrand) shows how gently Williams can caress a lyric, how pure her interpretation and voice and how deep listeners can go emotionally while listening to Williams. “I have opened with that song,” said Williams. “I learned that from Lena Horne.”
The traditional wisdom is to open up-tempo and then move to a ballad. It’s brave to open with a ballad but Williams said it is what, in a subtle way, can grab the audience’s attention and pull them in. Williams said she brings whatever has happened to her in the moments and hours before she sings a song to each presentation and that makes it different from any previous time she may have sung the same song. “I stay in the moment,” she said. “That’s my safe place. It’s O.K. to emotionally expose myself since that is the way I can be true to the music.”
Williams said she learned to sing, not by listening to other singers, but by listening to instrumental lines in the recordings of Stan Kenton, George Shearing and Lionel Hampton. “I learned to sing those lines and took in those harmonic textures.”
“Gracious” is a word most would use to describe Williams. “I may be out in front,” she said, “But I’m just a piece of the puzzle. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from the musicians I’ve worked with.”
Droste, as has Williams, has worked with some of the best in the business, including Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis and Ella Fitzgerald. Together the result should be sweet and swinging. With Droste are David Enos on bass, Sam Watkins on trumpet and vocals and Sinclair Watts on drums.
Droste and Williams take the stage at 7 p.m. Opening for them is the inestimable Marshall Hawkins at 6:15 p.m.
As of Monday, Aug. 6, the Summer Concerts have raised $22,093 of its total budget of $23,859.