Kat Williams
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Music

The best kept secret in music

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"Kat Williams Review"

She’s got a mean set of lungs and she knows how to use them for deep, soul-stroking tones that makes us feel better having heard them.

Kat Williams sings jazz, R&B, straight blues, lounge sounds and more.

The fact is, this woman could hum off her laundry list and make it sound good.

Williams may be a contemporary artist, but it’s obvious that she’s got a well-worn soul, a quality that translates well through the microphone.

Listening to someone like Kat Williams use a talent that is no doubt the product of genes and fate almost makes you do a double take.

The range and intensity of her voice is at times surprising, often leaving the whole room feeling blessed by the sound.
- Amy Jones, Asheville Citizen-Times - Asheville Citizen-Times


"Divine Meaning"

Divine Meaning By Hunter Pope

WCU theater group takes African-American evangelist, Father Divine, to New York stage . . .

There’s nothing more divine than seeing an evangelist sweat. The animalistic urge to grin flourishes when a Falwell blubbers for forgiveness, or a Robertson stammers that, yes, Jesus would drive an SUV.

Many of us relish when a lavish preacher falters. Common sense decrees that there’s no way a human can be true to God and bundles of money at the same time.

Then, there’s Father Divine, a short black man who claimed he was God. The good Father didn’t use it as a metaphoric tactic (ala John Lennon); he actually believed he was the Creator. His immense flock, The Universal Peace Mission Movement, followed him like a cherubic parade during the Depression Era in Harlem. While everyone else traded their wardrobe in for barrels, Father Divine’s ministry provided monetary bounty (through an economic plan considered progressive by even today’s standards) for himself and his racially integrated followers (which included the niece of Herbert Hoover).

The fascination swirling around Divine (he died in 1965 in relative obscurity, although his Movement still exists today) rises again with the musical comedy, “Mother Divine”.

Written by Laurel Vartabedian, assistant professor of communication and theater arts at Western, and Texas composer, Bill Evans, the musical created a ripple at Western Carolina’s Niggli Theatre where it did five sold out performances at the beginning of August.

The fictional musical follows Father Divine at the apex (1930s) of his ministry. His first wife — Mother Divine — is recently deceased, and the good preacher grieves her death by marrying a very young white woman. The spirit world gets wind of this matrimony and grants the initial wife furlough back to the material plane.

Reincarnated, Mother Divine proceeds to make the minister perspire like an immoral sweat lodge. And this is a Mother Divine whose voice sounds garnished by the ghosts of the Mississippi Hill Country. Asheville’s Kat Williams, a longtime blues singer in the mountain city, landed the role despite being a virgin to the theater circuit. Her voice and demanding stage presence cupped the audience’s attention, and the buzz surrounding her performance could make a hornet’s nest nervous.

“Mother Divine” will be part of the New York City International Fringe Festival now under way in New York. It’s considered the biggest multi-arts fests in the country. Invitations are scarce, with 85 percent of the companies based in New York. The honor is immense considering that the Western Carolina Stage Company is in its first year. “Mother Divine” was the last of the troupe’s four summer shows in Cullowhee, but the musical has the honor of representing the company at the Fringe Fest.

“I think we are the first show in history to open in an unincorporated town and then go directly to the Big Apple,” laughed Laurel Vartabedian over the phone.

Laurel is no stranger to the insomniac city. She took her first (and only other) musical, “American Story,” to New York at the Midtown International Festival, where it won a Best of Fest award.

Laurel’s biggest accolade, however, may be her latest catch. Three years ago, Laurel attended the Asheville Civic Ballet’s version of “Porgy and Bess.” and was floored by a singer who tight-fisted the crowd with every note.

Laurel Vartabedian, meet Kat Williams.

“By the time I saw her, I had already done one musical,” recalled Vartabedian, “and I thought if I ever do another musical I sure would like to have her in it.”

Williams had been retired for six months from the Asheville nightclub scene when Laurel and Steve Ayers (the director of “Mother Divine”) approached her about the script. Befuddled by the offer, Kat hazily agreed to a quick audition of reading a small part followed by a song. Laurel and Ayers handed the script to Williams, pretty much assuring her the spot of Mother Divine.

Little did Kat know that she had already auditioned for Vartabedian.

“I found out later that Laurel had the part in mind for me when she began to write the play,” said Williams from her home in Asheville. “She had seen me at ‘Porgy and Bess.’ My voice stuck in her head.”

“I already felt like I had done the audition three years ago,” said Laurel. “ I already knew what she could do and how she could draw a crowd.”

But could Kat pull off a full-blown play? Stoking the blues fire is one thing, but could she captivate in thespian armor?

“I’m no stranger to stage,” said Williams. “ I’ve been a performer for years, and I’m a real emotional performer. Mother Divine felt so natural to me. I was really surprised that it’s no different than the music. I put everything into a musical term. I think my biggest difference was trying to remember the dialogue. But once I put it in terms of ‘it’s just a song’ it was fine.”

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Kat was her parents’ 31st (and last) foster child. “I was five days,” she said, “and they were already in their 60s.”

Kat’s first audience was her mother. When Williams was 9, her mom contracted cancer. Seeking a way to cheer her mother up, Kat found an article in Reader’s Digest with a laughable cure.

“I had read that a body released a chemical when you laughed, which freed pain,” said Williams. “I put these shows on to relieve my mother’s pain and I’d imitate all these different singers — Patti LaBelle, Cher — just to make her laugh.”

“That was my big break,” Williams said with a chuckle that could thaw an Antarctic acre.

Her call to the stage was barred during her tenure as a worker for the Department of Corrections in New York. It wasn’t until she moved a friend to Asheville that the lights began to flicker. Kat immediately became enamored with the region and the people. Her focus went south. She continued to work in corrections for a time, but eventually went full time into music.

“I came down and decided to stay. I never went back,” she said without even a gram of guilt.

Williams had only 12 days of rehearsal for the play and put in about eight to nine hours each day. She would then stay over with Rudy Roberson [Father Divine] to create the unabashed Mother Divine. Kat credits her co-lead with the development of the fleshed-out ghost. Roberson, who works on the theatre and communication faculty at WCU, is a veteran of the Broadway circuit.

Roberson helped craft a Mother Divine whose reincarnation parallels Williams’s career. Both Divine and Williams undertake new identities before everything makes sense.

“(Mother Divine) starts out as this dedicated wife to the House of Heaven and Father Divine and the congregation,” said Williams. “She dies and then she gets to come back. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be reincarnated? When she comes back she’s a lot more fun.”

And Kat seems like she’s having a ball. Once the blues diva of Asheville, she now goes by another moniker.

“I haven’t been in downtown Asheville in over a month,” she said. “I went and did some gigs in California and San Francisco before I started Mother Divine, and I just came back. It’s really weird because people say, ‘Hey Broadway!”

Or, how about, “Hey Goddess”?

Father Divine may not like another human — besides himself — being called a heavenly divinity. Plus, I’m not sure he would take too well to a woman versed in “the devil’s music” playing his beloved first wife. But Williams doesn’t seem concerned. She even happened upon some undisclosed information about the Divine ministry.

“After I started doing the play,” said Williams, “I looked into a little history of Mother Divine. It seems like she was the backbone of the ministry.”

I guess we know who the real deity is. Sorry, Father Divine. Try not to drip from heaven. - Smoky Mountain News


Discography

CD: Kat Williams - " here's that rainy day "

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The unmistakable voice of Kat Williams will conjure feelings of hope, love, and passion and will leave a tremendous impression on your heart. Kat was born 1967 in Buffalo New York to a fourteen year old mother she met only once. She immediately became the thirty-first foster child in the home of Mary and L.C. Williams, who later adopted her. At age nine Kat spent the remainder of her childhood being a caregiver for her sixty-eight year old mother who was diagnosed with cancer. Four days after Kat's seventeenth birthday, Mary passed on, L.C. passed on that same year and Kat found herself homeless. With her fiery passion for life, her exuberant personality and her undying perseverance, she blossomed gracefully and won a softball scholarship to Niagara University. During her 3rd year of college, she was hired by the State of New York as a prison guard. Law enforcement became her career for the next 10 years.

In 1997, Kat began to turn her life toward music. "I looked in the mirror and realized that I couldn't fight the feeling anymore and opened my heart to the music". She bared her soul to the crowd, inviting audiences in for a glimpse of a truly phenomenal woman and an authentic performer. Years later...Kat‘s music ideology is “ I have no competition- I can only give you the best of me“.

Kat Williams has performed shows throughout the United States (i.e. NC Governors Mansion, Universal Studios, Private Party for Robin Williams (comedian) and recently the opening act for Jay Leno (talk show host/comedian) at the Fine and Performing Arts Building in Cullowee, NC. She has also shared the stage with the Temptations, Kim Waters (jazz saxophonist), Jimmy Thackery (founder- the Fabulous Thunderbirds), Evelyn Blakey (jazz vocalist New York City) & Martin Sexton.)

Filled with a passion for song, animated expressions, a spirited sense of humor and that remarkable laugh, Kat takes the stage and makes magic happen.

Kat Williams Resume
Birthplace: Buffalo, NY
Education: Niagara University
DISCOGRAPHY: “here’s that rainy day

First Job: Public Pool Maintenance for the City of Buffalo, New York

Previous Career: Maximum Security Correctional Officer for the State in New York, New York

First Job in Music Industry: Lead singer in house band at Tressa’s Nightclub in Asheville, North Carolina

Music Genres - Classical Jazz, Contemporary Jazz mixed with originals, Blues, MOTOWN, R & B, 70’s Disco Favorites, Classic Rock & Roll and Current Pop Hits.

Band Members - Aaron Price: Piano & Keyboard; River Guerguerian: Drums & Percussion;
Grant Cuthbertson: Acoustic & Electric Bass; Tom Leiner: Guitar; Jeremy Saunders: Saxophone

Kat has performed in the following states - New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Florida, California, Washington, and Tennessee . . . and coming soon to a venue near you !!

1998 La Residence Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC
Guest artist at request of Robin Williams for the “Patch Adams” Wrap Party

1999-present Williams Entertainment Inc in Asheville, NC
Owner & Founder; Exclusive Booking Agent for the Biltmore Estate

1999 Asheville’s Annual Christmas Parade in Asheville, NC
Grand Marshall and Featured Performer

2000 Asheville Civic Ballet in Asheville, NC
Acclaimed ( solo ) vocal presentation of “Porgy & Bess”

2001 Kat’s Music & Food Emporium in Asheville, NC
Owner; Performed ( 3 ) nights a week at popular restaurant venue

2002-present Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
Annual featured performer at New Year’s Eve Celebration

2003 NY Fringe Festival’s Greenwich Playhouse in New York, NY
Lead role ( Mother Divine ) in the performance of “Mother Divine”

2005 Western Carolina University’s Fine & Performing Arts Center in Cullowhee, NC
Opening act for Jay Leno at the facility’s Grand Opening

2005 CD Release Party held at Bonefish in Asheville, NC
Networking and promotional event that drew over 400 attendees

Kat has shared her stage with:
Jimmy Thackery of the Thunderbirds; The Drifters; The Temptations; and Kim Waters

Other performers Kat has worked with:
Grammy Award Winning Performer - Eliot Wadopian; Three-time Grammy Award Winning Producer – Steven Heller of Upstream Productions; and Nominated NC Poet Laureate – Glenis Redmond

Kat has built her career as the featured performer at:
( 400+ ) weddings and private functions ( 100+ ) elite corporate events