Born: March 8, 1951 | Died: July 20, 2004 Primary Instrument: Piano
James Williams was an American jazz pianist.
Williams began playing piano at age 13, and served as the organist at the Eastern Star Baptist Church in Memphis for six years early in his career. He attended Memphis State University, where he began playing jazz. In 1973 he became a faculty member at the Berklee College of Music, also playing with Alan Dawson's group alongside visiting musicians such as Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, and Sonny Stitt. His first album as a leader arrived in 1977, and in 1978 he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, remaining there for four years.
He moved to New York City in the early 1980s, playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, and Kenny Burrell, and formed his own group, the Intensive Care Unit, with Christian McBride, Bill Pierce, and Tony Reedus. In 1987, he played with Blakey again in the Magical Trio (along with Ray Brown; he and Brown would also work with Elvin Jones and Jeff Tain Watts). In 1999 he became director of jazz studies at William Paterson University, where he remained until his death of liver cancer in 2004.