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 of bop powers each selection with authority, as Allen, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart stretch out with a relaxed feel for what Williams had envisioned. As with the original, several of the movements are performed by solo piano.
Geri Allen pushes the envelope often. On "Scorpio, for example, she drives the exotic melody at an unhurried pace through lyrical landscapes. Swinging gently and rolling with the waves of tradition, she lets the music ooze gracefully through her fingers. Bass and drums share in her heartfelt interpretation with remarkably well-defined roles. But Allen is never satisfied with mere reflection. She creates a swirling storm of passion that drives the piece powerfully toward its resolution.
Allen's "Thank You Madam emphasizes the eclectic approach to modern jazz that Mary Lou Williams espoused. Free to explore new territory, she gave us a treasury of great music. Allen's composition moves stalwartly over hallowed ground as a fitting tribute. Highly recommended, Zodiac Suite: Revisited combines traditional elements from jazz history with the kind of progressive energy that has always followed great artists.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.