John Hicks

Impressions of Mary Lou

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John Hicks' series of tributes to greats of the past for High Note continues with this fine CD honoring Mary Lou Williams, who passed away in 1981. What is so compelling about Hicks' salute to Williams is that he ignores her best known secular works; he sticks mostly to excerpts from her religious compositions, which, of course, still swing mightily. Joined by bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Cecil Brooks III, the pianist opens with a driving rendition of her "Lord Have Mercy" (from "Music for Peace"). "O.W." is a strut that alternates between a slow chant (anchored by Dwayne Burno's booming bass vamp) and some lively but brief up-tempo bop choruses. "Intermission" shows Williams' adventuresome nature as a composer; Hicks and company are up to the task. Hicks also wrote five originals that fit right in with Williams' songs. Hicks doesn't try to mimic her style of writing but succeeds in capturing her essence in his compositions. "Two for You" is a lively bop vehicle and solo piano feature that has shades of Mary Lou as well as Bud Powell. "Ballad for Mary Lou" is a beautiful melody that also reflects the complex nature of Williams' playing, as well as her personality. "Not Too Straight" is an up-tempo blues that has the angular quality of Thelonious Monk's works with the aggressiveness of Mary Lou Williams. Recommended.

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