Musicians of America: (Courtesy of the Knotted Chord Archive, 2002).
PLUS: Biography (Courtesy of the Artistís site, 2005).
John Williams(1967- ) Concertina, Accordion.
Born in Chicago, Illinois his father Brendan, who played Concertina, had emigrated from a hotbed of traditional music in Doolin, County Clare in the 1940ís. There was always music in the house, usually of a Clare nature, Willie Clancy, The Russels and Bobby Casey prominent. Another immediate advantage from the point of view of traditional music was being born in a city with a tremendous musical history tied in with emigration and featuring the famous Irish music collector Capt. Francis OíNeill.
During the 1960ís Chicago had Joe and Seamus Cooley and Johnny McGreevy among the great number of traditional musicians. Quality tutoring and sessions were readily available for those willing to learn and from this the latest crop of first and second generation Irish-American musicians has surfaced. Fiddler Liz Carroll is probably the best known of these.
Classically trained originally John started on the piano accordion at age 7 moving on to button accordion. His early influences, as well as his father were Liz Carroll, Johnny McGreevy, Elanor Neary, Jimmy Giblin and Jimmy Keane.
At age 14 he took up the Concertina(becoming the 3rd generation to do so from his grandfather Johnny), starting on a Lachenal before moving to a Jeffries, getting help from Pat Burke from Cooraclare, Co. Clare. Trips back to Doolin and to the Willie Clancy festival helped hone his skills as well as his style which he has attached to Doolin.
While in Doolin he played with Willie Beg Shannon, Gussie and Miko Russel(who was on his first solo cd).
Following in the steps of John Nolan on accordion John Williams was the first American-born competitor to win the All Ireland Senior Concertina title. He has won 5 All-Ireland titles in all.
His recordings are numerous, including 2 solos("John Williams" 1994 and "Steam" 2001), several with the band Solas, one of which received a Grammy nomination.
As a solo artist, in collaboration, and with Solas he appears on a multitude of compilations the most well known probably being "Dear old Erinís Isle"(Nimbus), "Jug of Punch"(Green Linnet) and "The Green Linnet 20th Anniversary Collection". Among those whose albums he has collaborated on is Martin Hayes, Randal Bays, Seamus Egan, Joanie Madden, Liz Carroll, Laurence Nugent, Tim OíBrien, Robbie Fulks and John Doyle.
He has also appeared on the soundtracks for the movies "Out of Ireland", "The Brothers McMullan" and "Traveller".
He plays at several music festivals each year the most famous of which would be The Montreaux Jazz Festival, Wolftrap Folkmasters Concert Series, World Accordion Festival, Quebec. His concerts have taken him all over the U.S. as well as Ireland, the UK, France and Switzerland. He has appeared on a number of radio and television shows in the U.S. and Ireland.
As well as teaching locally John gives workshops in different parts of the U.S. each year and has taught at The Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay.
He holds strong views on the respect due to older musicians as well as the importance of rhythm in musical style and the integrity of an instrument itself. (GOH)
John Williams is one of the most exquisite musicians within and beyond Irish music circles today. With five All-Ireland titles to his credit, John is the only American-born competitor ever to win first place in the Senior Concertina category. His additional talents on flute, whistles, bodhran, and piano distinguish him as a much sought after multi-instrumentalist in the national acoustic scene. As a founding member of the groundbreaking band Solas, Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble's 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers. The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note, the television series The Pure Drop, and the Christmas special Geantrai.
His recent release entitled Steam features the virtuosic guitar talents of Dean Magraw and Randal Bays, former Solas bandmates Seamus Egan and John Doyle, fiddler Liz Carroll as well as Chicago jazz greats Larry Gray on bass and Paul Wertico on percussion. Folk Roots magazine reviewed Steam as "unquestionably one of the best cds of the year."
Outside traditional music John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck, Doc Severinson, Studs Terkel, Mavis Staples, jazz pianist Bob Sutter, bluegrass legend Tim O'Brien, director Sam Mendes, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. Audiences nationwide recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol' Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains, Nickel Creek, and Riverdance.
On the silver screen he appears as a bandleader, music consultant, and composer in Dreamworks' classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman, Williams' autumnal Perdition Piano Duet was released on the 2002 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks. Of the original piece by Williams, The Los Angeles Times wrote "Closeness is beautifully and wordlessly conveyed in a quiet piano duet...a lovely thing." (-Kenneth Turan). And, of the soundtrack, The Denver Post printed "Brilliant, beautiful, brutal...the music in the film feels almost like a character itself." (-Eric S. Elkins).
In August 2003 Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city's finest instrumentalists. His collaborative album Raven with composer and guitarist Dean Magraw will be released in the fall in conjunction with a national tour.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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