Williams has been playing the Tuesday-night slot at Café Diem since June 2003. Early shows featured the 23-year-old on guitar, dexterously backing himself up with the aid of a loop machine. Since then, Williams has evolved his show with the help of many of the city's marquee players from established bands like Modern Groove Syndicate and the Oregon Hill Funk All-Stars. These days the usual Projekt lineup includes Williams, Herrington, Simmons, Jones, Ingraham and keyboardist Brian Mahne.
With an ever-increasing tour schedule (the Projekt's been from Vermont to Florida so far this year), Williams has been debating whether to continue his Tuesday-night gig at Café Diem. He knows the enthusiastic audience is difficult to come by in Richmond. "We have talked about not continuing our residency there, but it's great for our band," he says. "The crowd changes a lot. I love seeing new faces in there. We don't really rehearse any other time, so Tuesday nights is like a paid practice for us. It's our time to experiment with different ideas before we take them on the road."
Some of the experiments road-tested at Café Diem have been captured on the Projekt's new 11-song LP, "Projekt Management," recorded at Minimum Wage studio in Oregon Hill. With Williams battling the flu and eventually spreading it to all of his bandmates, the Projekt hunkered down in February for three days of feverish groove-making. The result? Smart, polyphonic jazz/funk that gives new meaning to the phrase "totally sick."
"I really just wanted to capture the 'groove' essence of our band," Williams says. "Everybody knows it's hard to capture what you do live on a studio album, and I wasn't even thinking along those lines. We were all in one room facing each other, said 'roll tape' and just went for it. I didn't want to sit around talking about what it should sound like. I just wanted to play and have fun with it."
Having already established his group locally, Williams hopes to raise the Projekt's profile in other markets. "We play out of town pretty much every week," he says. "One of my biggest goals is to just build a huge word-of-mouth following. Being on the road is definitely helping us out." In his time off from global domination, Williams plans to start a hip-hop group here in Richmond, using the Projekt to back up MCs and vocalists.
But tonight at Café Diem, tour schedules and side projects are the last things on his mind. After Shadbolt takes a bow, Williams returns to the stage and launches the band into a sweltering tropical number, eyes closed, long fingers flying over the strings on his red Fender Telecaster. A couple of girls jump up from their table to salsa dance, and soon Williams, Jones and Ingraham are shuffling side-to-side in unison. Pale ales and lagers bounce in pint glasses as patrons move to the groove. It's Tuesday night. Time to get funked-up. S
DJ Williams Projekt plays Café Diem every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Free. 353-2500.
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