"...Late Night Walk, Williams' first CD, is an independent release that far outspins most "label" releases. Williams wrote all ten tunes; seven are instrumentals, and three feature the vocals of Sugar Ray Norcia, who is in top form on all. Other first-call guest artists are Ronnie Earl's former Broadcaster Bruce Katz on Hammond B-3 and piano, and David "Fathead" Newman, with his unmistakably luscious deep tone, on tenor sax.
Late Night Walk blends elements of blues and jazz and runs the gamut from slow and smoky to seriously swingin'. The program kicks off with "Muck Rakin'," a catchy tune with a West Coast blues feel on which guitar and sax take the lead hand in hand (as they do on many of the tunes here). Katz joins in on some of those lead licks too, but only with carefully chosen, perfectly selected little spurts of sound.
Williams' first solo on the CD starts out with a sassy, crackling bang. On "Lets talk About It," we hear from swingin' Sugar Ray and a full horn section. Fans of Ronnie Earl's "Grateful Heart" album will love the slow, sexy, saxy title track and the carefree "Laughing Through the Tears."
The tunes on Late Night Walk vary quite a bit in style, but there is not a clunker among them. If instrumental, jazzy blues is what ignites your flame, this one is blazing."
--Ann Wickstrom, Blues Access
"...Williams blends snarl with surprising lyricism."
--Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue
"Massachusetts-based guitarist takes his after-hours strolls through the jazzy neighborhood where blues and jazz co-exist satisfyingly, benefiting from the stellar company of some well-known cohorts over the course of his atmospheric journey: tenor sax titan David "Fathead" Newman (on five cuts), keyboardist Bruce Katz, and Sugar Ray Norcia, who contributes typically serviceable vocals to three cuts on the instrumental-dominated disc. Williams' clean, fleet-fingered, yet close-to-the-bone lead lines strike precisely the right moods throughout the jazzy set."
--Bill Dahl, Living Blues
"Berklee assistant professor, guitarist and local sideman Michael Williams crafts a remarkably restrained and thoroughly classy solo debut that grabs your ears from the first note and never lets go. Leading a slinky guitar-organ quartet sparked by galvanic guest appearances by tenor-sax legend David ``Fathead'' Newman and Roomful of Blues singer Sugar Ray Norcia, Williams gracefully traverses jazz, blues and r&b with originals that sound too good not to be classics.Williams is both an understated player and a generous leader. He wisely grants considerable solo space to organ monster Bruce Katz, whose distinctive lines propel the band from the gutbucket to outer space and back again. Guitar-organ dates are plentiful these days, but few of them are as distinctive or as compelling as Williams' Late Night Walk..."
--Kevin R. Convey, Boston Herald, Sunday, March 12, 2000
"Got it in the mail, and boy can you wail. It's better than good. . ."
--Elliott Harris AKA E. Norman, "The Weekend Blues Party", WSMZ Columbus, OH
"Guitarist/composer Michael Williams has hit the ground running with his debut solo outing, "Late Night Walk". Based in Boston, Williams has been active around the blues and jazz scene since1987. His credits include working on Michelle Willson's acclaimed "So Emotional" album, and he has also toured with Mighty Sam McClain and David Maxwell amongst others.
The opening track ("Muck Rakin'") serves as an introduction to both the album and the band. It is the sort of tune that you could easily imagine being used for a band (which here includes an excellent horn section) to warm up before the arrival of a frontman, such as B.B. King. Right on cue, Sugar Ray Norcia bowls up to sing the ensuing "Let's Talk About It." It is a lively, upbeat big band tune, on which the horn section gets to really swing out.
The clever variations in pace and style between blues and jazz, combined with the judicious use of Norcia, are effectively deployed. They serve to head off any criticism that could potentially have arisen over an album consisting solely of blues or jazz instrumentals.
Things are taken down low and slow for the highly evocative title track, where David "Fathead" Newman" makes his first guest appearance on tenor sax. There is nothing wrong with the horns used elsewhere, it just seems that the presence of Newman (along with Norcia, and Bruce Katz on keyboards) lends the recording a seal of approval. Newman returns immediately on "Just Last Night" which, in places, recalls some of Weather Report's best moments.
The other band that springs to mind, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Roomful of Blues, especially on "Shining Bright," which is followed by what is probably the bluesiest tune here ("The Voice Of An Old Friend"). Then it is back to jazz for "Lazy Boy," before Norcia takes his leave with "Got Me Once More," a song from the cabaret tradition which evokes memories of great singers like Mel Torme. The band take things home with a couple more instrumentals, with the closing "Post Consumer Blues" sounding a bit like an outro, used to round off the evening's entertainment.
If you like your blues to swing, and appreciate the point where blues meets jazz, "Late Night Walk" will be right up your street. Williams is a fine guitarist and tunesmith, irrespective of whether he is tackling blues or jazz. In tandem with a very good band, and an excellent set of guests, "Late Night Walk" marks an impressive start to Michael Williams' solo recording career."
--Gordon Baxter, Blues on Stage, www.mnblues.com
"Superior musicianship, excellent compositions, and we can enjoy it from beginning to end!"
--Laura Diamond, KDVS FM, UC Davis, CA
"Michael Williams incorporates some notable heavyweights on this finely executed CD of uptown swing and gritty blues. With folks like keyboard master Bruce Katz, saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, singer Sugar Ray Norcia and others, Williams walks the walk and talks the talk with precision and authority on this all original Williams penned release... Some of the finest cuts on this disk exhibit Williams' flawless execution and tasteful, less-is-more approach to the guitar while his guest musicians fill in the blanks nicely with their superb accompaniment."
--Douglas Sloan, Metronome Magazine, Boston, MA
"Compelling guitar. Strong compositions. Impeccable taste in guests and sidemen."
"Great material played by top notch musicians, Michael Williams' independent release, Late Night Walk outpaces many recent label releases. Creative compositions executed by master musicians, Williams' Late Night Walk is as pleasant as a Sunday Stroll."
--Greg Sarni, "True Blues", WBRS Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
"I wanted to compliment you highly on your new Late Night Walk CD. It is really magnificent. Normally I skip around on the many CDs I receive to pick cuts with acceptable language, a different sound, and good enough for airplay. Your release certainly fit all of my criteria, and I've already played the entire Late Night Walk on two different occasions. I enjoyed each cut immensely. . . Keep up the good work. Really enjoyed the release!"
--Connie "Crash" Humiston, KKFI Programmer & Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival Operations Manager, Kansas City, MO
"Williams, formerly the guitarist with Michelle Willson, knows this uptempo buffet expertly mixing jazz and blues will turn heads."
--Art Tipaldi, Boston Blues News, Boston, MA
"This is a beautiful piece of work for an unsigned guitarist. Real nice tempos on this record. The tunes are just perfect, they swing, but not too fast, and with such high caliber musicians on the record, you are practically guaranteed a good listen."
--Diana Shonk, The Blues Audience, Harrisville, NH
"Thanks ever so much for sending us a copy of Late Night Walk. I'm positive that it will receive heavy air play. . . A very nice cross mixture of blues and jazz. I am a blues fanatic, but just can't seem to get into jazz. Well, you just helped me cross that bridge. I thank you for that. Keep up the good work!"
--Alice L. Hill, General Manager, WELY Ely, MN