Mary Lou Williams

Nite Life/From the Past

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The great pianist, Mary Lou Williams, is heard solo throughout this two-CD set. The first 11 selections were originally issued as the LP From the Heart. This two-fer also has nine additional performances (some of which are very different alternate takes) from the same studio dates. Sixty-one at the time, Williams was at the peak of her powers and her program ranges from a remake of her early stride classic "Nite Life" and versions of her compositions "What's Your Story Morning Glory" and "Little Joe from Chicago" to some more modern and impressionistic pieces. In addition, the set has a fascinating 32-and-a-half minute monologue by Williams in which she talks about her life story up to the late '30s, her days with Andy Kirk and her marriage to John Williams; plus, there is an intriguing set that the pianist performed at a Scott Joplin tribute concert. Because she did not care for the very straight performances of the classically-trained ragtime pianists who preceded her, Mary Lou Williams surprised the crowd by improvising on three Joplin pieces, throwing in stride, a bit of the blues and plenty of swing. All in all, this is a highly recommended set of great interest.

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