Orange Alert

Zeitgeist of Opportunity

Creative Musician James Gordon Williams to Headline Local Events

April 1, 2015, by Rob Enslin

James Gordon Williams
James Gordon Williams

James Gordon Williams, a creative musician, composer, and critical musicologist at Syracuse University, will be the focus of three upcoming local events. The pianist is an assistant professor of African American studies (AAS) in the College of Arts and Sciences.

On Tuesday, April 7, Williams will collaborate with San Diego filmmaker Cauleen Smith for a program titled “Speculations: Science Fiction, Chronopolitics, and Social Change.” Equal parts performance, conversation, and screening, the event will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Hosmer Auditorium of the Everson Museum of Art (401 Harrison St., Syracuse). Williams will improvise to a new film by Smith, who is the Urban Video Project (UVP)’s artist-in-residence.

Free and open to the public, "Speculations" is part of the Syracuse University Humanities Center’s “Spring Symposia” series and UVP’s yearlong "Celestial Navigation" series. Event sponsors include AAS and the Community Folk Art Center, both in A&S; the College of Visual and Performing Arts and its Department of Art’s Visiting Artist Lecture Series; the Everson Museum; and Light Work.

For more information, contact the Humanities Center at 315-443-7192 or

Randy Weston
Randy Weston

On Thursday, April 16, Williams will join forces with legendary jazz pianist Randy Weston for a discussion about the latter’s life and work. The program is at 5 p.m. in Maxwell Auditorium and is part of AAS’ first annual John L. Johnson Lecture. Afterward, Weston will sign copies of his autobiography, African Rhythms (Duke University Press, 2010).

Named for AAS’ inaugural director, the daylong program includes a dedication of Johnson’s papers at 9:30 a.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (231 Sims Hall) and a solo piano recital by Weston at 12:30 p.m. in Setnor Auditorium.

Events are free and open to the public; however, registration is required. For more information or to RSVP, contact Doreen Blenman by Thursday, April 9, at 315-443-9344 or

“I am extremely honored to participate in these events,” says Williams, whose research lies at the nexus of creativity and Afro-diasporic activism. “Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist who is interested in the role that science fiction and other modes play in creating real social change. Likewise, Randy Weston is a pioneer who has been blurring musical boundaries for more than 60 years. Both are true innovators and visionaries.”

On Saturday, May 9, Williams and his trio will perform at 2:30 p.m. at the Petit Branch Library (105 Victoria Place, Syracuse). The hour-long program is free and open to the public.

As a performer, Williams has worked with some of the biggest names in modern jazz, including drummers Charli Persip and Peter Erskine, saxophonists Greg Tardy and Greg Osby, and bassist Mark Dresser. His performances have taken him all over the world, including France, Italy, Switzerland, and Malta.

“[Williams] is nothing less than an accomplished, impressively creative pianist and composer, with great depth and substance,” writes Winthrop Bedford in Jazz Improv Magazine.

Adds Rusty Aceves, longtime contributor to All About Jazz: “His writing is marked by intensely lyrical and evocative melodic elements that are sometimes staggered with pointed chordal syncopations, adding depth, dimension, and a feeling of seeming serenity against constant motion.”

Following studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and New York University, Williams earned a Ph.D. in music from the University of California, San Diego.


James Williams Associate Professor

Media Contact

Rob Enslin