Gregory Hickman-Williams Vocal Prodigy January 18, 1957 - August 26, 2006 He sang all the time as a child, according to his mother, and the whole neighborhood knew his voice because, even then, it was a big voice. Gregory was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but his voice first filled the streets of his childhood in New Iberia, Louisiana and Oakland, California. He spoke of singing jazz and blues on the front porch with his uncle and grandfather and of later seeking out the best vocal instruction he could find in the San Francisco Bay area, where he sang with every major orchestra and with Fantasy Records. But Gregory always wanted more, and the path he followed became a quest for all that is true and beautiful in singing and in life. That quest took him to New York, Israel, and Europe. In Barcelona he met Gino Bechi, one of opera's greatest baritones, then in his seventies, and for more than two years studied with him almost daily in Florence. With relentless tenacity Gregory crafted a formidable vocal technique at the service of his "glorious voice" (Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch, Kansas City), a voice which, according to one listener, had a warmth that felt like a hug. He could sing with equal grace and passion a Cuban or a Yiddish lullaby, a Puccini aria or a Mozart song, An Argentinian tango or a cowboy ballad; spirituals, gospel, jazz standards, improvised blues. And to every song in every genre he brought the same deep compassion, the same unerring instinct for the emotional core of each word. His voice was big, but his heart was bigger. In January of 1993, Gregory returned to the United States to settle in Kansas City, where he would train singers and eventually began showing up at jazz clubs, where his voice alone could silence a noisy crowd. But Gregory never found the elusive right place at the right time. He once said that he loved songs like "Clementine," "The Yellow Rose of Texas" or Barbara Strozzi's Venetian Renaissance songs, because they were beautiful but forgotten or ignored, like his voice. It was the casual question of a friend that lead to the production of 'Passages,' Gregory's "magnificent" (Marcello Tolliver, WPFW FM, Washington DC) and only CD. After two years of fundraising, repertoire selection, reviewing sidemen and recording, the release party was scheduled for March 26, 2006. Gregory went into the hospital on March 19 and remained there for twenty-three weeks on a heart machine and in need of a transplant. As he fought back from one crisis after another the doctors came to call him the Miracle Patient. But he never recovered his health sufficiently to qualify for the transplant and on August 26, 2006, in the presence of family and friends, his machine was turned off and his spirit released -- the only release party Gregory ever had. Passages is a stunning achievement. It was selected from a crowded international field by Bill Brownlee in the Kansas City Star and by Lee Ingalls on KCUR FM, Kansas City, as one of the best new releases of 2006. And it is Gregory's monument. In it's twelve songs, there is an emotional summary of Gregory's life -- a life spent in the pursuit of sincere and beautiful singing, and of unconditional love. He was lucky. He got both. His incomparable talent and hugely loving heart were one and the same thing. Short weeks before he died he was able to say from his hospital bed, tears streaming down the sides of his face, "I just feel so full of love that I can't contain it." _________________________________________________________________________ It is indeed something grand. Melodious Mel, WDNA - Miami - Ft. Lauderdale - Hollywood, FL ' Something incredibly touching in the spirit and emotion of not only his intonation, but his phrasing' 'not only is Gregory's story a touching one, but his voice......absolutely amazing! What a tremendous instrument this gentleman had.' Ron Pelletier KCSM FM 91 Berkeley CA The CD is absolutely incredible -- Andrea C Briceño CSCR F Fusion Radio Scarborough Ontario Magnificent -- Marcello Tolliver, WPFW, Washington DC A seemlessly sophisticated document, Passages is a carefully constructed introduction to an important new talent. A new star has landed in our midst. -- Bill Brownlee, Patchchord.com Passages is a remarkable document of an incredibly talented artist. -- Lee Ingalls, KCUR A glorious voice -- Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch Gregory Hickman-Williams left us wanting more -- Joe Klopus, The Kansas City Star An artist who's able to command a performance with just a piano accompaniment has to be special. Gregory Hickman-Williams versatility is beyond Broadway, opera and cabaret. He's a powerful talent for some inexplicable reason has been taken away from us. -- Dick Crockett "The Voice:" 88.7fm Sacramento His voice is a miracle. His voice will heal people. -- Lester "Duck" Warner, jazz singer He is a national treasure - - Kathryn Smith, Kate Smith Promotions of Chicago 'This is a gorgeous CD, exquisite. It is a work of art. Gregory Hickman-Williams is the champion of singing. He made you feel the lyrics because he was living them. His is a world voice.' - Loren Pickford, international jazz musician "He reminds me of Big Joe Turner. His voice has the strength of a semi truck." - Russ long, jazz pianist. "Nobody sings with as much intensity' - Laurette Goldberg, international harpsichordist and baroque specialist "A powerful voice, an extraordinary voice, a beautiful voice" - Frederica von Stade, international opera star "Gregory Hickman-Williams has a great vocal instrument. Powerful, soulful and always musical in a variety of styles" - Danny Embrey, jazz guitarist "Greg's vocal stylings are beautifully crafted and artistically inspired" - Stan Kessler, jazz trumpet "It is a beautiful, dark voice" - Gino Bechi, international opera star "His command of languages was impressive, singing in perfect idiomatic Portuguese--very rare" - Doug Auwarter, KC jazz artist "The first thing that impressed me about Gregory was the way he could project his voice into the space without a microphone. He is a stylistically versatile singer. I'm impressed with his sound and his feel for the music." - Tommy Ruskin, jazz drummer.
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