Sherry Williams returns to the ISCS to perform on Aug. 8. 
File photo

A true jazz chanteuse

Sherry Williams — sweet, smooth, soulful jazz vocalist — will perform at the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series (ISCS) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8. 

In May, Ken Dahleen, the founder and producer of the ISCS, said, “For the 20th series, I tried to pick the top groups — the most popular — over these 20 years.”

Williams meets the criteria. She has performed many times in Idyllwild — Jazz in the Pines, the Idyllwild Master Chorale, the ISCS, and restaurants.

Her music is a magnet for jazz lovers. Her biography says, “When you listen to her you realize immediately that she is a consummate artist — the real thing. Williams is what they called in the old days, a storyteller — she paints pictures with words.”

Williams is anxious to return and perform in Idyllwild. She just finished a fundraiser for the Temecula Theater Foundation where she is president. Her dedication during the past seven months made it a very successful event this past weekend. 

“It’s my version of ‘paying it forward,’” said the popular songstress. “Now, I can do more singing.” 

And singing, Williams has done for many years. When asked how she came to the jazz genre rather than other opportunities, she said, “I think it was always there, inside, my inner texture.”

Her father played the trombone in the army and jazz on the family piano. She grew up with great music around her. The family record collection was full of popular jazz musicians such as George Shearing, Lionel Hampton, Margaret Whiting, Stan Kenton and others. 

Williams studied classical piano. As a teen, Williams listening choices were limited. Her parents did not permit rock ‘n’ roll. 

After college, she got jobs with popular local groups, Disneyland and toured with Debbie Reynolds and Johnnie Ray. In 1976, she finished a tour with Eddie Kendricks and wanted to go solo. 

“I always loved jazz,” Williams said. “Once I could afford to sing on my own, I sang jazz.”

While Williams didn’t promise any new pieces, John Rodby, her long-time pianist, will join her. They have worked together since the 1980s. 

“Sherry phrases like a tenor sax player, is in total control of her material, and actually listens to what I play,” Rodby says of Williams. 

Harvey Newmark will join them on the bass. New with the group are drummer Richard Sellers of San Diego and young trumpeter Curtis Taylor.

In preparation for her upcoming ISCS performance, Williams said rest is the best preparation, especially after organizing and producing the Temecula fundraiser. “Get enough sleep,” she said.

“I’m most comfortable on stage,” Williams said. “If I’m having a good time, I feel you’ll have a good time, too.”