If there is only one skill, trait, or job that I wish I could have and be successful at, it would be jazz singer/ pianist. I am talking about the slow jazz and blues style of singer with a rich crooning style baritone voice. I’ve sat in jazz clubs and listened to all different kinds of acts perform. I didn’t have the discipline early on when I took piano lessons to stick with it. Instead, I chose the more glamorous instrument of the rock stars, guitar. I’ve been playing since I was an early teenager and I am pretty average to above average on the six-string. As my metabolism has been slowing down and my ears tend to be a little more sensitive to volume, I am more at peace with classic jazz and blues, though a good rock show is great every now and then. Surprisingly a recent find at the record shop is a singer named Joe Williams.
I actually bought Joe Williams’s vinyl record, The Overwhelming Joe Williams, by accident. I am also a fan of delta blues guitarist and singer, Big Joe Williams, and probably by mistake by the shop staff, the vinyl I bought was stocked in the wrong spot. When I got home and began to spin the new vinyl like a kid and his new toys on Christmas, I was a little perplexed with Joe’s departure from his delta blues style and deep voice. With further investigation, it became clear that Joe Williams and Big Joe Williams were two totally different people. Luckily for me, both are completely amazing. To my surprise, Joe Williams is a singer, eight-time Grammy nominated and winner of a Grammy in 1984. He has been inducted into nearly every jazz or blues hall of fame out there, including the Grammy hall of fame. The Overwhelming Joe Williams is a collection of live recordings including songs from Ray Charles, D. Ellington, Stoller & Lieber, and originals. All of the songs are big band jazz arrangements with percussion, horns, strings, and woodwinds. Williams has a smooth baritone voice and feels like silk on skin. He has the unique skill to be gentle when with his vocals, but you can feel and hear the force pushing out his words from deep within. I liken Joe to a cross between Frank Sinatra and Cab Calloway, which is why I drink Merlot with this vinyl and daydream about having his vocal skills.
Merlot has had a bit of a tumultuous past in the wine world. It reigns king on the right bank of Bordeaux, but has fallen out of favor in the new world after becoming flabby and weak. The release of the movie Sideways was the finishing shot to the already fading grape. It isn’t until the last few years that new world merlots are becoming more austere and tight leaving the jammy flab behind. One of the unique attributes to merlot is the texture of its juice. It is hard to define the texture of a liquid, especially the differences between very similar ones like different kinds of wine. Merlot, by far, stands out in the crowd as having a silky smooth texture. Even as current releases have tight gripping tannins, the body texture is silky and round like Joe Williams voice. One of my favorite spots to find great merlot is on the Long Island in New York State. New York wine geeks and regional folks are well aware of the quality of wines that come out of the region, but the opposite coast and the rest of the world, not so much love. The north fork at the east end of the island has the most vines planted. Bedell Winery makes one of my favorites. Planted in the fantastic soils of the island, merlot seems to be a thriving grape of the region. Bedell has received great accolades and high ratings for their Merlot and it was even served at the Presidential Inauguration in 2009. I’ve traveled to the region and been to Bedell. They people are as wonderful as their wines. I recommend the trip.
If I were to put on Joe Williams vinyl, The Overwhelming Joe Williams, and blind pour you a glass of Bedell Cellars Merlot, you would think I just poured you a $50 bottle of high quality California or French wine, but the jokes on you, it is from long island. But who cares anyways, because the pairing is so much better. Do yourself a favor and find Joe Williams on vinyl, or just download it on Itunes, buy some Long Island merlot, preferably from Bedell, and have yourself a great night.