All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

241

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

By

Sign in to view read count
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 the Collective heard here is led by pianist/composer Geri Allen, who long been known as a Wiliams scholar. Allen is assisted by bassist Buster Williams, who also played for Mary Lou Williams, and drummer Billy Hart, both current members of Allen's group. The album has been augmented with additional recordings; Andrew Cyrille takes over the drum chair on two of these compositions.

Mary Lou Williams' personal manager, Father Peter O'Brien, made the decision to place this project in the hands of Geri Allen, who remains a good choice to interpret the music, inasmuch as she is both a traditonalist as well as a contemporary explorer of bebop. On the various segments of the suite, it is easy to discern Mary Lou Williams' stride piano, as well as swing and blues playing. On certain of the compositions, like "Leo" or "Scorpio," it is easy to spot her updates to the sound.

The three additional tracks are Herbie Nichols' "The Bebop Waltz," a piece that Mary Lou Williams often played in performance; Williams' "Intermission"; and Geri Allen's "Thank You Madam," an homage to the collective's dedicatee. These three tracks demonstrate Allen's ability to contemporize the music of one of the key pianists and composers of the Twentieth Century.

The Mary Lou Williams Collective has committed to, and completed, a second project of nine Williams originals, with guest appearances by vocalists Andy Bey and Honey Gordon, and is already at work on another album of her previously unrecorded sacred music.


Track Listing: Zodiak Suite (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces); The Bebop Waltz; Intermission; Thank You Madam.

Personnel: Geri Allen: piano; Buster Williams: bass; Billy Hart or Andrew Cyrille (13,15): drums.

Title: Zodiac Suite: Revisited | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Mary Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Der Dichter Spricht CD/LP/Track Review
Der Dichter Spricht
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 26, 2018
Read Piano Works CD/LP/Track Review
Piano Works
by John Sharpe
Published: April 26, 2018
Read Throw Tomatoes CD/LP/Track Review
Throw Tomatoes
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 26, 2018
Read Reflections 2 CD/LP/Track Review
Reflections 2
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 26, 2018
Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Charlie & Paul CD/LP/Track Review
Charlie & Paul
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "Drifting Home" CD/LP/Track Review Drifting Home
by Jim Worsley
Published: November 7, 2017
Read "Sermon Organ Combo" CD/LP/Track Review Sermon Organ Combo
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Strykin’ Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Strykin’ Ahead
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 30, 2017
Read "On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971" CD/LP/Track Review On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 27, 2017
Read "Vista" CD/LP/Track Review Vista
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 29, 2018
Read "Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 43 - Zurich 1950" CD/LP/Track Review Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 43 - Zurich 1950
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 12, 2017