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Celebrated R&B Singer Alyson Williams Jazzes Things Ups

Photo courtesy Alyson Williams

R&B/Soul singer Alyson Williams has proven time and time again she’s not going anywhere. She’s still singing, still breaking new ground, still shaking things up.

The singer, entrepreneur, and radio personality recently unveiled her latest release, the single, “Summer Nights In Harlem.”

“Summer Nights In Harlem” has a full jazzy vibe and is accompanied by the “flip-side” ballad “The Romance Of You.”

Williams she was the first R&B singer signed to Russell Simmons’ hip-hop dominated Def Jam Records during the 1980s. Her hit song “Just Call My Name” recently celebrated its’ 30th anniversary.

Williams’s first album, “Raw,” spun out several top 5 singles, including “Just Call My Name.” The album spent over a year on the Billboard charts.

After Def Jam, Williams began to record for Columbia records (now Sony) and released her second album. The self-titled release released two top-ten hits, “Just My Luck” and “Can’t Have My Man.” She released two more albums, in 2004 and then in 2010.

Before reaching success as a solo artist, Williams sang background for Melba Moore, Evelyn Champagne King, and Kurtis Blow. She sang the hook on classic Kurtis Blow rap tracks – “Basketball” and “If I Ruled the World.” 

Besides building a successful recording career, Williams enjoyed acting and singing in both on and off Broadway productions, including “One Mo Time” and the “25th Anniversary Revival of the Wiz.”

Now as she is enjoying her latest release, Williams is also hosting a weekly radio show, Love Notes With Alyson Williams – In The Chill Zone on WHCR.90.3FM. And, she has a memoir coming out and her reality/talk television show, “The Gig, The Grind.”

Williams gave the 411 on “Summer Nights In Harlem,” her new projects, and life to The New York Trend.

New York Trend (NYT): What does Harlem mean to you?

Alyson Williams: Harlem is where I was born and raised. I am proud to say that I am a Harlemite. Being raised in Harlem has prepared me to be able to live anywhere on the planet and thrive. Harlem means taking pride in who you are and in what you do and always striving for excellence.

NYT: Is Harlem still Harlem to you? So much has changed in Harlem.

Alyson Williams: To tell you the truth, not really. Harlem has gone thru and continues to go thru many changes. New York, in general, is just so different.

I have wonderful memories of the Harlem that I grew up in and those memories keep me connected even though Harlem has become something very different.

When they refer to me as “The First Lady Of Def Jam” it makes me smile.

NYT: What does Def Jam mean to you?

Alyson Williams: Def Jam is the label that launched my solo career. I signed on in 1986 and although I left the label in 1994 I will always be thankful for the doors that were opened for me as a result of being an artist on Def Jam.

When they refer to me as “The First Lady Of Def Jam” it makes me smile.

NYT: Do you ever go back and listen to your first album? If so, what are your thoughts about the work now 20 years later?

Alyson Williams: I’m proud to be celebrating the 30th-year anniversary of my R&B hit “Just Call My Name” from my first album “RAW.” And, yes I do listen to my earlier work and I’m always proud of it. It also allows me to see my growth.

NYT: Fast forward, what do you like the most about your new project?

Alyson Williams: I love the fact that even in the middle of a global pandemic I have been blessed to have the opportunity to release new music into the universe. There are some obstacles to deal with but over all I’m very happy and proud of the first two singles, “Summer Nights In Harlem” and “The Romance Of You.”

I am looking forward to completing the CD. I think the project is going to be a breath of fresh air. The kind of music that allows you to exhale and enjoy the moment.

NYT: Why jazz?

Alyson Williams: Jazz is the music that I was raised on. My father was a jazz trumpeter and the leader of a 21-piece big band, The Bobby Booker Big Band. I’ve been wanting to get back to my jazz roots for a very long time. Timing is everything and now is the time.

NYT: How has the covid-19 pandemic affected your creative process?

Alyson Williams: I think the covid-19 pandemic has allowed me to slow down enough to hear my creative thoughts more clearly and be less distracted. But it has also stolen my ability to work and tour etc. I’ve been able to record in the studio and perform virtually and live with other musicians, but everything is extremely limited.

NYT: Would you like to act on Broadway again?

Alyson Williams: I’ve done Broadway in the past but not nearly as much as I would like to have done. I pray that when Broadway shows come back that I’ll be able to get into a great show and I hope it runs for years! So many Broadway performers are out of work and suffering. I’ll just be glad when we can get back to theater.

NYT: What do you enjoy about acting that’s different from singing?

Alyson Williams: I think I love them equally but theater somehow takes everything to another level. I like regimen so going to work eight times a week at the same time and following a specific script makes me very happy.

But I also love the freedom of performing on the concert stage and in night clubs and  just letting it flow.

NYT: How did the idea for the virtual show honoring Phyllis Hyman come about?

Alyson Williams:Several years ago I played Phyllis Hyman in a stage play called “Thank God The Beat Goes On” starring the Whispers. There were so many people asking for the “Phyllis Show” that I thought I wanted to honor her music and her legacy so I created “Old Friend” Alyson Williams sings tribute to the legendary Phyllis Hyman 2020 marks the  25th year anniversary of her transition. She was my friend and I loved her and I miss her dearly.

About the Author

Ann is a freelance writer who started her professional career at the NY Trend more than two decades ago. Ann has since gone on to write for a number of major outlets including: Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire, Pathfinders, Frequent Flier, Playboy, The Source, Girl, Upscale, For Harriet, The Network Journal, AFKInsider, Africa Strictly Business, AFKTravel, among others.

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