Mary Lou Williams

1945-1947

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Most of the musicians heard on this fourth installment in the Classics Mary Lou Williams chronology are women. During the second half of the 1940s, this was considered unusual and innovative. Female musicians, with the exception of carefully coiffed vocalists and the occasional pianist, were generally regarded by the public, by the entertainment industry, and by most male musicians as curious anomalies and were not taken very seriously. Mary Lou Williams always preferred to surround herself with musical minds possessing artistic acumen commensurate with her own highly developed musical intellect. The first four tracks were recorded for the Continental label in 1945 with guitarist Mary Osborne, bassist Bea Taylor, and percussionists Margie Hyams and Bridget O'Flynn, a fascinating duo who took turns either handling the vibraphone or the drums. This little group sounds perfectly up to date, pleasantly newfangled on "Rumba Rebop," a reference to that new style that in 1945 was already becoming known instead as bebop. "D.D.T." fairly bristles with angular modern changes. There is also a sweet vocal by Mary Osborne on "He's Funny That Way." Mary Lou Williams recorded six delightful piano solos for the Disc label on February 16, 1946. Taken in sequential order, they form a sort of self-portrait containing most every aspect of this artist's musical identity: her background as an indispensable component in Kansas City's thriving jazz scene; her genius as arranger for Andy Kirk, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington; her vital participation in the emergence of early modern jazz -- all of this is reflected in her personal piano reveries. Nine titles recorded for Victor during the summer and autumn of 1946 constitute bop-inflected chamber jazz of the highest order. Included here are three fascinating experiments on boogie themes, a structure based on a theme by Dvorák, several original inventions, and another sentimental vocal from Mary Osborne. In 1947, ten males known as the Milton Orent-Frank Roth Orchestra recorded two very boppish sides for the Disc label under the direction of Williams, a big-band arrangement of her "Lonely Moments" and the catchy "Whistle Blues." Another session for Disc featured trumpeter Kenny Dorham, bassist Grachan Moncur II, and guitarist John H. Smith, Jr. On "Mary Lou," the men sing in unison: "Mary Lou -- we love you -- we thank you." The flip side, a harmonically advanced study entitled "Kool," is an example of Williams composing in a marvelously eccentric bop style worthy of Thelonious Monk. What a treat to hear Kenny Dorham in an intimate small-group setting at this stage of his career. This fascinating compilation closes with two sides recorded by an all-female quartet for the Mercury label late in 1947 but left unissued for some reason until many years later. Here, then, is an excellent survey of Mary Lou Williams' innovative musical accomplishments in the years immediately following the Second World War.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:49
2 2:52
3 2:51
4 2:52
5 2:12
6 2:23
7 2:18
8 2:12
9 2:22
10 2:29
11 2:52
12 3:12
13 3:06
14 2:48
15 2:50
16 2:41
17 2:38
18 2:45
19 2:44
20 2:56
21 2:57
22 2:18
23 2:44
24 3:08
25 3:07
blue highlight denotes track pick