Mary Lou Williams traveled to London, England in the winter 1953 and sometime in 1954 for these sessions, likely spaced about a year or so apart, with two different British rhythm sections, the common denominator throughout being bongo player Tony Scott. This Vogue album originally titled Mary Lou Williams Plays in London and issued in the U.S. on the GNP Crescendo label as In London, is back on Vogue as The London Sessions. It features several alternate takes that are quite different, a smattering of Latin infused tracks, standards, a few solo performances, and all of the verve, spark, soul, and deep intelligence Williams always brought to any performance area. Of the cuts from 1953 featuring the excellent bassist Allan Ganley and bassist Ken Napper, the emphasis is on extrapolated swing-to-bop as "Perdido," the straight bop of "Lady Bird," Latin tinges tacked onto these tunes, and more straight Afro-Cuban beats from Scott on the cha cha infused B take of "They Can't Take That Away from Me." Two hot versions for the smart set of "Titoros" and one slice of the Williams original "Kool Bongo" -- similar in stance to "Titoros" -- are melodic marvels, rhythmically spurred on via Scott by what some called a trendy gimmick, but actually work well in spiced up parlance. There are also two different solo piano versions, one clipped and shorter, of "'Round About Midnight." The other trio date from 1954 has Tony Kinsey on drums and bassist Lennie Bush, definitely more obscure players. But the results are quite different, as Williams changes keys higher and lower on versions of "The Man I Love," and "Yesterdays." Her take of the famous "Flying Home" is very modified, with a deeper blue hue and indirect nuances of the basic melody. She takes the Wild Bill Davis evergreen "Azure Te" in a faster bop mode, and does the mambo with Scott during two versions of "Just One of Those Things." Three originals of Williams crop up; the evocative sundown cocktail number "Twilight," her famous easy swinger "Nickels," and the inquisitive and lonely solo heart wrencher "Why?" The contrasting moods, techniques, and of course the utter brilliance of Williams shines through from top to bottom. A valuable document of her work in this time frame, this is likely a must-have item, not only for fans of the undisputed first lady in jazz, but for students, educators, and any true lover of great music.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos