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GENE WILLIAMS is from Jamaica, Queens NY. He grew up in an area where so many other talented young musicians were also learning their instruments, and were influenced by such a wide range of music. “During my High School years, says Gene,  impromptu Basement jams would go from improvised Funk to Spaced out Jazz fusion. We were kids then, but serious about the music. Most of us went on to become professional musicians, and have played with numerous artists of all styles all over the world.
I’ve never been married…No kids. But trust me…after teaching hundreds of kids piano at the Boy’s Club for the last 10 years… I’m cool with that! “

Gene – (GWiz) continues the legacy of creative energy that has made New York’s, Jamaica, Queens famous. He’s toured, recorded  and performed with Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Freddie Jackson and so many others. Gene continues to perform live, touring nationally and internationally, as well as educating the next generation of ‘Kats’ at the Boy’s Club of New York’s incredible new music department along with other accomplished professionals dedicated to sharing ‘the Funk’!

Gene Williams’ first collection of music in 14 years, ‘Heroes!’ was justGENE WILLIAMS C released in 2010.

This being said, Gene, welcome and thank you for participating in this project.  Let’s get right to it.

No. 1)  What is music to and for you? (generally and personally)

Generally, music to me is something you don’t visually ‘see’ with your eyes..But something that you can feel. I’m also a visual artist, and I’ve always been able to ‘see’ music mentally. Images will pop into my head, and a story develops in my mind..It’s kind of a personal thing. But when I play a composition like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture for my students, and explain my interpretation of what I see when I hear it…They get it. On more of a personal level…music is something that’s always been a part of my life and has shaped who I am. My father loved music & played his jazz records in the house very loud. It was always in the car… I always had a radio in my bedroom on when I went to sleep and when I woke up.

No. 2)  What inspires you?

Musically, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, The Beatles,  Stevie Wonder…Not just because of their technical skill on their instruments… But each of them have pushed the envelops of various genres in ways no one else has. The evolution of Miles Davis from his bop days to electric Jazz/Rock… Herbie evolved the same way from bop to Jazz/Funk & just about everything else. The Beatles evolution from ‘I want to Hold Your Hand’ to ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ still blows me away! They all didn’t just get more proficient on their instruments… They all changed the way we all listen to music! You listen to some artists work over the years…and many sound the same over a ten year period. I find people who consistently take what they do to the next level totally inspiring. I’m also inspired by anything from Cartoons… Disney, Warner Bros, Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbs… Comics… Will Eisner… Spider-man…Hitchcock & Kubrick films & comedy… Jerry Lewis, Rodney Dangerfield, Cosby, George Carlin…

No. 3)  When are creating, playing for yourself, not performing, GENE WILLIAMS Awhere does it take you?  Where does your mind ( spirit ) travel?

I wish I could say I was one of those musicians who can get into that ‘Zone’ when improvising and I can just pull notes out of the sky like magic… If I let my mind travel while I’m playing… It might sound a little crazy if I listen back to it… and I’m not a ‘free jazz’ musician.

For me, when I’m just playing for myself I always seem to be thinking about my influences… ‘Here’s something Chick might do’… ‘Let me try a Jan Hammer thing here…’ The thing is, it always comes out sounding like something different than what I’m shooting for. And that’s a good thing. Because you want to sound like yourself… Not a clone of your influences. That’s something that just happens naturally…if you let it.

No. 4)  Do you think music, visual art and health are related and if so, how?

Yes indeed! As I said earlier, I’m also a visual artist…and my life has been a juggling act between my life as a musician, & my life as an illustrator. Many musicians I know are also excellent visual artists. Again, Miles Davis… Tony Bennett. Wayne Shorter used to draw cartoons. They are just different mediums for expression…and we’re all expressive people.

As for health… as I get older, one common thing I seem to hear from other musicians is ‘The Music is keeping us young!’ And I’m seeing that we don’t seem to age the same way that our non-musician contemporaries do. Must be something with the vibrations…Or maybe the act of creating and absorbing yourself into sound is a stress reliever. I dunno… But there is definitely something to it!

No. 5)  How do you feel when you are playing?

I feel different when I’m playing for an audience than when I’m creating in my own personal space. I’m a performer…I’ve always been a visual player with a lot of energy. When I’m “vibeing” off of other musicians, and we’re really grooving… It’s an incredible feeling. I feel like I can do anything…and others can see it when my head starts rocking back & forth and I start dancing while playing…I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I’m also “vibeing” off of the audiences energy.

This year is pretty much the first year I’ve gotten back into writing &Gwiz_Brixton_UK recording my own stuff after several years. That process has really been good for me, and it feels great to be creating music that’s mine…and not someone else’s. No matter what other distractions are going on around me, time becomes meaningless and I seem to block out everything else until I’m done.

No. 6)  Under what conditions do you do your best work?

I’m an only child, so I’m pretty used to being alone when I’m in creative mode. I pretty much stop everything if someone else enters the room while I’m working… They usually want to ask what you’re doing… or chat about something they feel like talking about… So I like being in my own box. Organization isn’t an issue for me. Cables & wires are all over the place… I don’t mind. I surround myself with whatever keyboards & computers that are available, a pencil and paper to jot down notes. Headphones that block out any outside distractions, and I’m good to go.

Live situations are different though. If I’m traveling I need to have a decent amount of hours between the travel time, sound check time, & the performance time. It’s the worst feeling to feel fried before you even start a 90 minute/ 2 hour gig. I like to be well prepared with the material before a performance. Working with other well prepped musicians on a gig also makes for good working conditions.

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level?

Yes. My music is a snapshot of who I am at that point in time. When I did my first CD ‘Welcome 2 My World’ 13 years ago, many people asked me ‘When are you doing another one?’ For years I felt, ‘Well, this one is ME right now… I said what I wanted to say…and I’m cool with that.’

When I started writing & recording the new material for ‘Heroes!’ this year, I sent some rough mixes to friends for their opinions. One early response I got was ‘Yea…that’s you.’ I said, ‘What do you mean’? He said, ‘You have a sound.’ That took me back a little. ..because I honestly can’t tell you myself what ‘my sound’ is. But I guess other people might be able to. Yes, my music is a reflection of who I am, & I do identify with it.

No. 8)  Does playing music help you connect with your higher GENE WILLIAMS icb fj june 2010 186self, whatever that is for you?

When I play music WELL… I feel it connects me to whatever my ‘higher self’ is. The real world places many challenges on you that might keep you from playing for a good length of time… So when you do get back to your instrument after not practicing for a while & your hands are doing things your head isn’t telling them to… You can feel pretty low too! But after working on it again steadily everything comes back, and starts to reconnect you to that place, and you feel like… ‘Yea, this is what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing!’

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school systems?

Hmm well… The reason I’m doing what I do now, (Teaching in an after school music education program at the Boy’s Club of NY) is because of the arts disappearing in the public school system. I think we lost at least a generation of potential artists & musicians because of lack of funding for the arts in the public schools. Music was the first to get cut. Now 10 years later, I think people are realizing taking the arts out of schools was a big mistake, and they’re trying to figure out ways to bring them back. Quite a few of the kids I teach tell me about the so called music classes they have at their schools. A lot of their teachers aren’t even musicians, and many have asked the kids to get our department to teach them certain music so they can perform at their school recitals. It’s pretty lame… Hopefully, we can get it back to where it once was.

Kids are looking for exposure to creative things. We play them music they’ve never even heard of before ranging from Coltrane, to Weather Report, to Yes & Emerson Lake & Palmer… and you know what? They dig it as much as we did when we were their age.

No. 10)  What could be a simple solution to improve the development of creativity in students in the public school systems?

I don’t know if it’s really ‘simple’..because everything requires money! And money is a tough thing to come by lately. You need the money for the instruments & maintenance.Gwiz@LePoissonRouge

You need the money for quality teachers. It’s a tough break because only the schools in upper class communities will have access to these things, while public schools in poor to middle class communities will likely get left out. If you’re in NY and have a son aged 6-18 the ‘simplest solution’ would be to send your kid to us at the Boy’s Club of NY. Otherwise, I’d just suggest other systems to start the way we did… One instrument at a time. Create a guitar department or a chorus. then maybe a year later if the budget allows, add a piano department. Then Drums… Woodwinds…etc. It won’t happen over night. But in a few years, a public school might actually have a BAND again!

Gene, thank you for this most interesting interview.  I sincerely appreciate it.  I want to wish you all the best with your new CD “Heroes” and until we work together again, keep well and be blessed!


Gene Williams Heroes!Please be sure to visit the links below to learn more about Gene and to hear his music.   Your comments are always appreciated.  ENJOY!

Here’s a link to his students performance of his Superman arrangement at Lincoln Ctr Julliard:

 (The comic Art of Gene Williams)

(Gene Williams animated music videos)

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Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, October 15th, 2010


Really enjoyed your article…especially #1 where you “see” from the music without the eyes and interpret from there without it necessarily being a memory from the past when you might have heard it before.
Your talent is great in many ways, musician, business man, teacher. It is admirable that you give back so much to the youth. If we are to save the world it will be through the children and people like you. Thanks…

.-= Cecelia Gay´s last blog ..Forever Mine =-.

By Cheryl Riley on October 25th, 2010 at 7:56 am

I enjoyed this article, and having been a part of this musical and artistic experience through my own brothers, I definitely recognize that these gifts you all share are God given. How wonderful is it to teach the children of the world what you love? The gift of sharing is grander than the gift of creating. Keep it going, and your legacy will be solid for future generations! Love you!


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My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours