John Williams has been hailed by the Irish Times as “a musician of remarkable sophistication.” Born in Chicago to Irish parents, he carries three generations of traditional County Clare music within him, from both his father Brendan and his grandfather, Johnny Williams. John is an award-winning accordion and concertina player with five All-Ireland titles to his credit, and is the first American-born competitor to take first place in the Senior Concertina category. His additional talents on flute, whistles, bodhran, and piano distinguish his as a much sought after multi-instrumentalist in the national session scene.
John’s latest album is Steam (GLCD1215), a powerhouse of ensemble playing that invigorates the traditional artform. A founding member of the acclaimed Irish group Solas, John re-unites with his former bandmates Séamus Egan and John Doyle on Steam, as well as with Chicago fiddler extraordinaire Liz Carroll, guitarists Dennis Cahill and Dean Magraw, bassist Larry Gray (Ramsey Lewis) and percussionist Paul Wertico (Pat Metheny Group). Amazon.com says of the album, “John Williams is a button accordion and concertina player of rare ability, ably demonstrated on Steam. To play with the feeling that Williams does, you need a profound understanding of the music that transcends technique.”
John recently served as Traditional Music Director in the upcoming Dreamworks feature film The Road to Perdition, a story of the Chicago Irish mafia in the 1930s starring Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh and directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty). The film is scheduled for a late 2002 release.
John has appeared on numerous recording and soundtracks, including the PBS special Out of Ireland, The Brothers McMullen, and Traveller. His solo debut release on Green Linnet Records was included in the Irish Echo’s Top Ten traditional releases for 1995. In Solas, Williams received wide recognition playing to sold-out audiences internationally and earning both a NAIRD award and a Grammy nomination for the ensemble’s self-titled 1996 release on Shanachie Records. Most recently, John has been touring and recorded as a member of Tim O’Brien’s acclaimed Appalachian-Celtic ensemble, The Crossing.
Some of John’s dynamic solo performances have been captured on two award winning compilation discs, Dear Ol’ Erin’s Isle (Nimbus) and The Twentieth Anniversary Collection (Green Linnet). The first received the Library of Congress honorary distinction as an outstanding folk recording in 1992; and the second, a double CD of the finest Green Linnet recordings, occupied the top 15 of the Billboard World Music Charts for an unprecedented 17 weeks in 1996. John has also collaborated with friends Martin Hayes, Seamus Egan, and Joannie Madden on their individual albums.
Williams has performed at the Barns of Wolftrap in the Folkmasters Concert Series, as well as The World Accordion Festival in Montmagny, Quebec. Other festivals include the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Montreaux Jazz Festival, and the National Folk Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has played concerts in New York, London, Paris, Brittany, Zurich, Dublin, Belfast, and Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, Ireland. National Public Radio performances include Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion, and the 1997 broadcast of the July 4th Concert on the Mall in Washington, D.C. He has been the subject of the Irish radio program The Long Note and television program The Pure Drop. John has also been interviewed and recorded on BBC and CBC radio.
Williams performed at taught at the prestigious Willie Clancy Summer School in Co. Clare, Ireland, the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, West Virginia, and the Swannanoa Gathering at the Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. At home in Chicago, John has taught for seven years at the Irish American Heritage Center and performed to thousands of Chicago area school children in Urban Gateways, the country’s leading arts and education agency. John was a guest soloist with Chicago’s Symphony of the Shores and served as music consultant and principal recording artist for the Goodman Theatre’s production of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa in 1994.
John has been highlighted in Chicago Magazine’s Best of Chicago issue as “Best Squeezeboxer for 2003,” with a full-page photo of John and his concertina at the local pub.
For more information on John Williams, visit www.johnwilliamsmusic.com.
Quotes From the Press
“There is no denying that John Williams is a fine musician…Williams shows great versatility, playing button accordion Anglo concertina, flute and whistle, all adding up to a very well made and superbly recorded CD.” – The Living Tradition
“Multi-instrumentalist John Williams’ Steam is a lively, spirited rendition of some of the best Irish traditional music.” – New Age Voice