"The all-time greatest woman jazz musician." That typically was the kind of language used in describing Mary Lou Williams.
Mary Lou was a fabulous pianist, as well as a noted arranger, and composer. But she also had another role of distinction: she was a sort of mother spirit for innovative musicians. Her spacious Harlem apartment was a salon where, especially in the 1940's, many of the best jazz people hung out.
I was a friend of hers and particularly remember when, in 1947, she suggested I show up for a "gathering." The turnout was small, but choice. Among the group were three disparate geniuses who were, or became, members of Down Beat's Hall of Fame: Dizzy Gillespie, Jack Teagarden, and May Lou, herself! To top it off, there were two of the most prominent be-boppers: pianist-arranger Tadd Dameron and pianist Hank Jones.
It was a serious session. More talk and listening to records than music making. Even Dizzy was subdued, smoking a pipe and looking like an elder statesman. Perhaps the lightest touch came when Teagarden started fiddling with some of Mary Lou's miniature, toy fiddles.
Finding Jack Teagarden in that group was surprising. Here, among the boppers, was the laid-back Texan trombonist and singer who was a celebrated touring partner of Louis Armstrong and a frequent member of old-time combos. But everyone loved the guy, for his personality and musicianship.
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.