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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou Williams At Rick's Cafe Americain

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The second album of this double CD issue was released by Storyville in 1998, under the same title. Valuable enough in its way, featuring pianist Mary Lou Williams three years before her death, playing standards that include one of her own, “What's Your Story, Morning Glory?," originally composed for the Andy Kirk band in the days when she was the “baby at the baby grand." But the icing on the cake of this reissue is another disc, that features six solo numbers and an additional eight trio tracks, all from the same gig. Williams' playing is incredibly ...

DISTRICT JAZZ

Mary Lou Williams Festival 2010

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Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz FestivalKennedy CenterWashington, DCMay 20-22, 2010 In celebration of the 100th anniversary of her birth, this year's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival was dedicated to the music of its namesake. This focus lent the festival's 15th year at the Kennedy Center a special significance and provided an opportunity to honor the compositions and musical adventurousness of one of jazz's greatest figures, often hailed as the genre's most influential female contributor. Prior to the festival, the Kennedy Center embarked on an ambitious project ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Lou Williams: A Grand Night for Swinging

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It's always a pleasure to welcome a “new" album by pianist Mary Lou Williams, even one recorded more than three decades ago under less than favorable circumstances. Williams' trio (Ronnie Boykins, bass; Roy Haynes, drums) was taped in mid-winter 1976 during a long-running gig in snow-covered Buffalo, New York. As is true of many live recordings, especially those made years ago, the sound varies noticeably from track to track, with fluctuating volume levels and some surface noise, but Williams and her partners rise above those blemishes to present a consistently satisfying program of standards and originals.

The concert begins and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Lou Williams: A Grand Night for Swinging

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If Mary Lou Williams had never resumed her career after she abandoned it for religious reasons in the early 1950s, her paramount place in jazz history would still be secure. As a pianist, composer and arranger from the late 1920s through the 1940s, she was the music's premiere female musician, working with the likes of Andy Kirk, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington during the Swing Era. And when bebop came along, Williams embraced it and befriended the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. But thanks to a Jesuit priest, Peter F. O'Brien ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou's Mass, My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me, Zodiac Suite Revisited, The Lady Who Swings the Band

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Mary Lou Williams Mary Lou's Mass Smithsonian Folkways 2006 Mary Lou Williams My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me OJC 2005 Mary Lou Williams Collective Zodiac Suite Revisited Mary Records 2006 Dutch Jazz Orchestra The Lady Who Swings the Band Challenge 2006 Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)--pianist, composer, arranger and teacher--was not only the First Lady of jazz; she ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

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The Zodiac Suite was composed by pianist Mary Lou Williams in 1944-45 and recorded shortly thereafter. It was also performed on Williams' weekly radio program in 1944. The suite consists of twelve segments, each musically describing one sign of the Zodiac, and is regarded as Mary Lou Williams' most important work. Each of the compositions was dedicated by Williams to personalities as diverse as Ben Webster, Leonard Feather and then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It has been sixty years since the last recording of the complete Zodiac Suite. This project was sponsored by the Mary Lou Williams Foundation, and ...

BIOGRAPHIES

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band

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Imagine a pianist playing concerts with Benny Goodman and Cecil Taylor in successive years (1977-78). That pianist was Mary Lou Williams. In a career which spanned over fifty years Mary was always on the cutting edge.

She was born Mary Scruggs in 1910 Atlanta. Her mother was a single parent who worked as a domestic and played spirituals and ragtime on piano and organ. At age three Mary shocked her by reaching up from her mother's lap to pick out a tune on the keyboard. Rather than hiring a teacher (for fear the child would lose the ability ...

MEGAPHONE

Memories of Mary Lou

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By Rev. Peter F. O'Brien, S.J. I met Mary Lou Williams in the pages of Time Magazine. It was early 1964. She was 53 years old and I was 23. The article, under MUSIC, was in two parts - each about a different woman. The first concerned itself with Sarah Caldwell. Ms. Caldwell directed and produced operas and was the inventor of The Boston Opera Company. The sub-heading over her section of the story read: “The Persistent One . The second half dealt with Mary Lou Williams, the somewhat reclusive (at that time) jazz pianist, composer and ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Mary Lou's Salon

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"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 ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Mary Lou Williams: Jazz Healing

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"Jazz has healing in it, and a lot of love."--Mary Lou Williams The prospect of writing a column on Mary Lou Williams is just a little bit daunting--reflecting on her considerable body of work and enormous talent, but to write about women jazz artists and not cover her would be as close to a jazz sin as I can think of. So, here goes... As I was reviewing Williams' prolific career, I logged on to see what else might be online about her and stumbled onto a discussion of why there are so few women in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

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In a time when “female jazz performer is no longer an oxymoron, it's important to remember there was a time when jazz was essentially a men's club. All the more remarkable, then, that pianist Mary Lou Williams was not just an accomplished artist--in a time where women jazzers were typically relegated to vocalist roles--but a forward-thinking one with one foot in stride and the other in a rapidly evolving musical landscape. While Zodiac Suite: Revisited is not the first tribute to Williams, it is the first to take a look at one of Williams' most enduring pieces of music, treating ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

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The Mary Lou Williams Collective, an arm of the Mary Lou Williams Foundation, Inc., is devoted to the recording and performance of the music of the pianist and composer. Williams dedicated her Zodiac Suite to figures she respected, including Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Duke Ellington, Ellis Larkins, Vic Dickenson, Leonard Feather, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Eddie Heywood, Bob Cranshaw, Frankie Newton, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Pianist Geri Allen interprets each movement from the Zodiac Suite with fiery passion and a relaxed swing that lifts you up out of your chair. The straight-ahead drive ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

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She was “the little girl who swings the band, an arranger for Andy Kirk, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and practically any other sublime big band name you could deign to think of. Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell hung out at her NYC apartment to soak up her knowledge during the bop era. Mary Lou Williams should be a household name, or at least a dorm room name. Something.One who carries her torch to enlighten bedraggled minds is Geri Allen, a Detroit-born pianist, sharp-toned and keen on melody. She leads the Mary Lou Williams Collective on Zodiac ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes

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Calling this album mainstream is a bit misleading, since it includes four pieces of choral/sacred music and one avant-garde cut. In a way, it's the perfect mirror of where Mary Lou Williams was in the early 1960's, coming out of a nearly ten year absence from performance. At the beginning of that period she had devoted herself solely to religion and charitable work. Jazz-loving priests within the Catholic church convinced her to convey her religious feelings through what she did best: performing, composing, and arranging. Here we have some of the beautiful results.

The hymn “St. Martin de ...



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