Regina Marie Williams doubles as first lady of Twin Cities theater and the Twin Cities’s finest jazz vocalist. Barring none.
Williams turned a strong showcase, Syl Jones’s Daughters of Africa for Mixed Blood Theatre, into an incredible career, stunning Penumbra Theatre Company audiences opposite James Craven in Gus Edwards’s Louie & Ophelia, staking claim to prominence with an extended Penumbra run and starring role in Oliver Goldstick’s Dinah Was as Dinah Washington. On the heels of which she released Regina Is … The Songs of Dinah Washington, for which music lovers can be profoundly grateful. It is nothing short of masterful. Followed by the equally compelling Feel The Spirit, spirituals and hymns sung with galvanizing heart and soul. It’s hard to hear Regina Marie Williams not rare back, hollering, “Git it, girl! Wear that song out!” Now, she’s releasing When a Woman Loves a Man, a tour-de-force turn on jazz standards.
When a Woman Loves a Man is a triumph by which Regina Marie Williams establishes mesmerizing authority. “When a Woman Loves a Man” leads the album, putting listeners on point: Williams has an uncanny ear for phrasing, possesses arching range and is powerful beyond reckoning. The song receives a fine rendering, alluring. Seductive. “My Funny Valentine” showcases this premiere vocalist’s originality as well. The blues classic “Stormy Monday” virtually is reinvented. It gets a barrelhouse, tinkling ivories arrangement backing uncanny singing. This artist, in one song, spans a fascinating gamut from playful to sexy to lowdown nasty and all the way back, stopping off at the bridge to absolutely blow your mind. “Moonlight” is a mischievous romp, fully airing Williams’s fluid chops. For the closing cut, you have yet to experience how an extraordinarily gifted artist can interpret genius until you listened to Regina Marie Williams sing Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.
When a Woman Loves a Man is produced by Sanford Moore. Backing Williams are Moore (piano), Dave Karr (sax, clarinet, flute), Steve Jennings (drums), Gary Raynor (bass). Heavyweights all around. This is one of those recordings that definitely will make a difference in your collection. And you don’t have to be a jazz enthusiast to enjoy it. Regina Marie Williams sings with a world of feeling you’d have to be deaf not to hear. And, at times, she’s so strong it’s scary. When a Woman Loves a Man: Don’t sleep on it.
Photo courtesy Regina Marie Williams