Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

214

The Mary Lou Williams Collective: Zodiac Suite: Revisited

By

Sign in to view read count
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 Suite: Revisited. Williams composed pieces for each astrological sign, as tributes to adored artists who were born under each one. Begun in 1944, she composed most of them to perform on her weekly radio show (The Mary Lou Williams Piano Workshop) in 1945. She recorded all twelve the same year, and the collection became her definitive work, modulated and sweated over the rest of her intermittent career.

Geri Allen puts together a stellar trio for this re-visioning of the Zodiac Suite, along with a few other Williams-inspired tracks. Buster Williams is an anchor on bass, hypnotically steady, having worked with Williams occasionally in the '60s and '70s. Billy Hart maintains a meticulously busy touch on the drums during the Zodiac Suite, while Andrew Cyrille takes over for the impressive set of odds and ends afterward.

The suite kicks off with "Aries, a Lady Day and Ben Webster tribute, which slips in a sinuously bright melody among the numerous breaks that Allen handles with brisk aplomb. The ominous "Taurus is dominated by Allen's funereal left-hand line, which is then attacked by the insistent bluesy riff from her right. Buster Williams joins in with a ferocious bass break, and it settles and roils from there. It's a command performance, apt in that it's the sign of Duke as well as lady Mary. My favorite piece is the slow-burning "Capricorn, undergirded by a simple walking bass that is expanded into jackhammer piano runs, before screeching to a halt for some dreamy lyricism. The bass, that most patient of instruments, always brings it back on home though, which in this case is an irresistable syncopated groove.

The final four signs are pieces originally improvised on the radio show, executed by Allen here with lithe grace. All are gems of articulated drama, rising and falling like any good Hollywood weepie. These heart-tugs are well earned though: crisp, clear and achingly honest. "Aquarius is the loveliest of them all, beguiling with its innocent charm and music box melody. It's dedicated to FDR, but its beauty is available to all, including this writer, now unquestionably proud to be a noble Aquarius himself.


Track Listing: 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; Andrew Cyrille: drums (13, 15); Billy Hart: drums (all other tracks).

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Italy 2016" CD/LP/Track Review Italy 2016
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Change Of Address" CD/LP/Track Review Change Of Address
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 6, 2017
Read "The Final Concert" CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Live At Okuden" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Okuden
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: June 1, 2017
Read "Nocturno" CD/LP/Track Review Nocturno
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 9, 2017
Read "The Promise Of Happiness" CD/LP/Track Review The Promise Of Happiness
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 7, 2016

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor