Archive for the Mary Lou WILLIAMS Category

Mary Lou WILLIAMS – Zoning 1974

Posted in JAZZ, Mary Lou WILLIAMS on December 17, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Mary Lou WILLIAMS – Zoning 1974
1995 Issue


Mary Lou Williams emerged in the early ’70s after a long period in which she worked in the Catholic church to resume her always stimulating career as a jazz pianist. On this CD reissue, one of her finest recordings of her later years has been brought back and augmented by two previously unissued performances. Williams performs in duos and trios with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker, uses Zita Carno on second piano during a couple of the more avant-garde pieces, and also performs some trios with bassist Milton Suggs and Tony Waters on congas. Rather than sounding like a veteran of the 1920s, Mary Lou Williams sounds 40 years younger, shows the influence of McCoy Tyner, and hints at free jazz in spots. An often surprising set of modern jazz.
By Scott Yanow. AMG.
Though she would periodically leave the music business for extended periods, Mary Lou Williams had one of the most extraordinary careers in jazz, interacting with everyone from Jelly Roll Morton to Cecil Taylor in a career that spanned over half a century. Always open to new influences, she also influenced others along the way, including essential figures like Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.
These 1974 sessions present Williams in various configurations, from solo to quartet, and she takes a range of approaches that embraces everything from funk to free jazz. The initial formation is a standard trio, with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker, but there’s nothing ordinary about the way Williams asserts her identity, blending strong two-handed playing with spacious modality and some striking, original flourishes. A second pianist, Zita Carno, joins Williams on the brief “Intermission” and the longer “Zoning Fungus II,” an intensely abstract performance that looks ahead to Williams’s controversial collaboration with Cecil Taylor, Embraced. Two duos with Cranshaw, the ballad “Holy Ghost” and the blues “Medi I,” are taken at very slow tempos and they develop luminous depths, with Williams sculpting her notes and showing the rare lyricism of her work. The final tracks present Williams in a very different trio, with bassist Milton Suggs and conga drummer Tony Waters. Suggs’s floating, multinote style is in marked contrast to Cranshaw’s rock-solid concentration on fundamentals, and it brings out a more impetuous Williams in the free interplay of “Praise the Lord.” The tune “Gloria” is heard in versions by each trio, the contrasts emphasizing how inventive an improviser Williams was. By Stuart Broomer. AMG.
Thirteen tracks (including previously unreleased version of Syl-o-gism and Gloria) embodying her always-distinctive compositions, lyricism, power, and adventurous harmonies. In the extensive notes to this reissue, Bob Blumenthal states that “its appearance in 1974 served as a revelation and a reaffirmation of what had always made Williams so unique. She was still stretching the boundaries, with harmonic, rhythmic, and formal notions that bordered on the avant-garde; yet her ear for melody and her deep immersion in the blues idiom remained.” Williams is backed by pianist Zita Carno, bassist Bob Crenshaw, and drummer Mickey Roker. “Her music remains so fresh and free.”
Mary Lou Williams- (Piano,Vocals);
Zita Carno- (Piano);
Bob Cranshaw- (Bass);
Mickey Roker- (Drums);
Leon Thomas, Sonny Henry- (Vocals).
01. Syl-O-Gism 3:29
02. Olinga 4:06
03. Medi II 2:10
04. Gloria 4:41
05. Intermission 2:25
06. Zoning Fungus II 6:54
07. Holy Ghost 5:26
08. Medi I 4:58
09. Rosa Mae 4:39
10. Ghost of Love 4:58
11. Praise the Lord 6:39
12. Gloria 6:37
13. Play it Momma 4:22

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Mary Lou WILLIAMS – Black Christ of the Andes 1964

Posted in JAZZ, Mary Lou WILLIAMS on December 3, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Mary Lou WILLIAMS – Black Christ of the Andes 1964
2004 Reissue.

The Smithsonian Folkways reissue of Mary Lou Williams’s 1964 experimental classic BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is an excellent package. With four previously unreleased bonus tracks and an annotated booklet including track-by-track notes and accompanying photographs, there is no shortage of extras. Fortunately, one also gets the remarkable original album–a project of great ambition on which Williams melds spirituals, blues, and jazz into a forward-thinking suite that draws the thematic parallel between Christian spirituality and African-American music.

Stylistically, BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is nothing if not eclectic. Peppered with spiritually themed a cappella choral pieces, Williams’s album spins through a history of modern music. Sophisticated interpretations of familiar tunes (including a smoky “It Ain’t Necessarily So) alternate with Williams’s originals. The fractured, avant-classical “A Fungus A Mungus,” for example, gives way to the fun bounce of “Koolbonga,” before closing out with the rollicking “Praise the Lord.” The artist’s piano skills are on full display here, too; her solos show her roots as a stride pianist, yet also find her conversant with post-bop and modal playing. For its musical range and breadth of vision, BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is a stunning and singular achievement.

Complex and brooding suites by jazz artists have often received mixed reviews. Whether hailed as brilliant and visionary or slammed as self-indulgent and triteĀ  Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige, Charles Mingus’ infamous Town Hall Concert, or even Wynton Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields all come to mind these works are, if nothing else, great risks for the artists involved. At the time of its initial performance, “Black Christ of the Andes” (or “St. Martin de Porres”) was called everything from “blues stripped of its accent” to a “hokey prayer,” prompting Williams to cut it from her repertoire before the release of the LP in 1964. An unfortunate fate for a very enjoyable and, now, highly regarded piece of music. Williams explained her pioneering concept of pairing jazz with spirituals as an attempt to heal the disparity between the gifted nature of the African-American and his tendency toward the worst kinds of sin. In fact, the original title for this LP was Music for Disturbed Souls. Certainly, by 1962 others had employed the modes and feel of the church into jazz, but Williams’ use of the Ray Charles Singers (no relation to the other Ray Charles) added an element that made “St. Martin,” an a cappella choral piece, a much more church-oriented affair than, say, John Coltrane’s “Spiritual.” Williams’ vision, like Coltrane’s, was at times dark and sobering while at others full of warmth and hope. It would have been completely out of place, however, at the Village Vanguard. This is a piece that belongs, if not in the church, then certainly out of the nightclub circuit. Other tracks on this LP, though, like her sublime rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” would have been welcome in their dark and smoky confines. Otherwise, expect a jump blues number, a handful of trio cuts (some featuring Percy Heath), and a smattering of various vocal combinations throughout. A number of styles are represented here and they weave amongst one another with ease and grace. This is a very enjoyable record with some especially rewarding piano solos by Williams. [The 2004 reissue contains four previously unreleased bonus tracks.]
By Brandon Burke.
Mary Lou Williams- Piano;
The Ray Charles Singers (1,3),
The George Gordon Singers (5,14);
Conductor,Howard Roberts (1,3);
Bass- Theodore Cromwell (2,4), Larry Gales (5,14), Percy Heath (6,7,8,10,11,12,13);
Drums- George Chamble (2,4), Percy Brice (5), Tim Kennedy (6,7,8,10,11,12,13);
Guitar- Grant Green (5,14);
Bass clarinet- Budd Johnson (5);
Tenor Sax- Budd Johnson (14);
Solo vocals- Jimmy Mitchell (5,14)
01. St. Martin De Porres 6:32
02. It Ain’t Necessarily So 4:41
03. The Devil 4:00
04. Miss D.D. 2:28
05. Anima Christi 2:48
06. A Grand Night For Swinging 3:06
07. My Blue Heaven 3:21
08. Dirge Blues 2:57
09. A Fungus A Mungus 3:21
10. Koolbonga 3:21
11. Forty-Five Degree Angle 2:50
12. Nicole 3:37
13. Chunka Lunka 3:07
14. Praise The Lord 5:55

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