This CD is one of a handful by Mary Lou Williams finally appearing in "record" bins. Here's Mary Lou at age 69 and at the height of her powers (despite, as we're told by biographer Linda Dahl, physical ailments and a recent diagnosis of cancer). Also on board were Milton Suggs, bass, and Drashear Khalid, drums (brushes on all but one cut).
Billy Taylor has often said of Mary Lou Williams that "she has the most consistent way of swinging" and that was never more true than on this album. The menu is all standards (listed below*), infused with creativity and power. The opening "Autumn Leaves" is worth the price of admission, with intriguing substitutions, wonderfully percussive stabbed chords, intense swing and a surprise ending. Plus a great bass solo. Other stand-outs are a waltz version of "My Funny Valentine" and Billy Taylor's minor blues "A Grand Night for Swinging", where Mary Lou goes from intricate to gut bucket.
The album boasts great solos throughout, though Khalid only gets one. There are a few moments where the trio's out of synch or the pianist seems to slightly cut off a solo. Though I'm a fan of abrupt endings I thought that three out of thirteen was a bit too much. But overall there's great expression, creativity and energy here. It's just another piece of evidence that Mary Lou Williams deserves greater recognition as a pianist. Period (not just female pianist as she's often described).
Audio notes: the sound quality is excellent. Purists beware: you'll hear coughs, laughs and comments ("coming down the track", "yeah"). I can't agree more with that last one.Recorded in Chicago, November 14, 1979. Total playing time=67:36. *
Recorded in Chicago, November 14, 1979. Total playing time=67:36. * Autumn Leaves; I Can't Get Started; You Can't Take That Away from Me; Satin Doll; The Jeep is Jumping; St. James Infirmary; Surrey with the Fringe on Top; My Funny Valentine; Mack the Knife; What's Your Story Morning Glory; Without a Song; Caravan; A Grand Night for Swinging.