Mary Lou Williams was a widely respected arranger for big bands during the 1930s and '40s, as well as a prolific composer whose considerable skill as a pianist was forged in the high intensity Kansas City music scene of the 1920s and '30s. Her complete recorded works have gradually appeared on compact disc since the 1990s, when a systematic reassessment of her oeuvre began to emerge, largely on import reissue labels. Unlike the 1927-1940 volume on the Classics Chronological Series containing her earliest known recordings as side-woman, soloist, and leader, Acrobat's 2008 edition narrows the range to 1930-1941, combining her solos and small group recordings with choice examples of her work with Andy Kirk & His Twelve Clouds of Joy, the fabulous big band in which she and her husband, saxophonist John Williams, worked with accomplished jazz men like trumpeter Edgar "Puddin' Head" Battle, violinist Claude "Fiddler" Williams, and drummer Ben Thigpen. Later participants heard on this collection are trumpeter and future Ellington soloist Harold "Shorty" Baker, ex-Fats Waller clarinetist and alto saxophonist Rudy Powell, electrically amplified guitarist Floyd "Wonderful" Smith, and vocalist June Richmond. This fine collection closes with three superb septet recordings: a treatment of Fats Waller's "Zonky" played by an ensemble unfortunately billed as Six Men and a Girl, and two swinging jams by Mary Lou Williams & Her Kansas City Seven.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Six Men & A Girl