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The Dutch Jazz Orchestra: Rediscovered Music of Mary Lou Williams

Edward Blanco By

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The Dutch Jazz Orchestra is known for performing the obscure and neglected works of better-known composers, arrangers and bandleaders like Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Billy Strayhorn, and Gerry Mulligan. With this album, the group continues its historic mission by unearthing and reviving the music of Mary Lou Williams. One of the few women in jazz who found her calling as a writer and educator, Williams is credited with composing and arranging for many musicians and big bands, including the Ellington band, for which she arranged from seventeen to perhaps as many as fifty charts.

One of several arrangements she wrote for Ellington that never made it to the bandstand was "Chief," a loud and brassy hard bop tune and a great introduction to Williams' music. This is followed by one of her more difficult compositions, "Aries Mood (A Portrait of Ben Webster)," inspired by a musician with whom she was at one time romantically involved. The chart, one of the poorer ones on this disc, has a heavy boppish feel with many mood and tempo changes, which make it tough to follow. The music does get better with the blues-tinged "Medi II," which brings the rhythm section to light, especially the cool guitar work of Martijn van Iterson. "Scorpio," featuring a slithering clarinet solo and pronounced background percussion, comes accross to me as a snake-charmers ballad—not a criticism, just a feeling. The DJO really powers through in formidable big band style on one of the best scores, "O.W.," a 1967 arrangement for Ellington.

Three tunes in the middle of the set give you a good flavor of Willams' music—"Scratchin' In The Gravel," an almost Kenton-like slow ballad with a prowling alto sax solo by Albert Beltman; "Shafi," which once again features Beltman with some explosive changes by the band; and "What's Your Story, Morning Glory," another soft, slow ballad with fine melodies and a clarinet chorus by John Ruocco. The thirteen-track album concludes with the sensuous "You Know Baby," the bebop tune "Lonely Moments," a rather slow and dragging piece, "Ghost Of Love," and finally the great jumping big band number "Walkin' And Swingin'."

A tribute to the genius that was Mary Lou Williams, Rediscovered Music brings her music new life and introduces it to a new audience. Providing a venue for "The Lady Who Swings The Band" is the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, which must not be overlooked in this endeavor. Playing music of complexity and sharp contrast, the DJO delivers a compelling big band performance which deserves attention.


Track Listing: Chief; Aries Mood (A Portrait of Ben Webster); Medi II; Scorpio; O.W.; Scratchin' In The Gravel; Shafi; What's Your Story, Morning Glory; New Musical Express; You Know Baby; Lonely Moments; Ghost of Love; Walkin'And Swingin'.

Personnel: Jan Oosthof, Ruud Breuls, Erik Veldkamp, Peter van Soest, Mike Booth: trumpet; Hansjorg Fink, Andy Bruce, David Rothschild, Martin van den Berg: trombones; John Ruocco, Albert Beltman, Hans Meijdam, Ab Schapp, Simon Rigter, Nils van Haften: reeds; Rob van Bavel: piano; Martijn van Iterson: guitar; Jan Voogd: bass; Erik Ineke: drums; John Ruocco: musical director.

Title: Rediscovered Music of Mary Lou Williams | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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