A lot of the music on this album will sound dated for two reasons: first the recording technology was relatively crude and second, the music is circa 1936-41. Yes, some of the recordings from that era are now anthems, but most of these never received the airplay those enjoyed and have fallen from memory.
What is important is this collection showcases Mary Lou Williams' genius for arranging as well as her virtuosity on piano. During the era of these recordings women musicians were not taken seriously by their male counterparts and were marginalized as composers and arrangers. Williams was an exception and the twenty five tracks on this album are evidence of that. In fact, she arranged all but two of the tracks: five and nine. However her piano is on every one.
If you are a musician or are studying composition and arranging this album is a gold mine of examples because except for the noted tracks all came from the same pen. Therein lies an opportunity to detect patterns and Williams' own style. As a musician she was as highly regarded. In fact she was Thelonious Monk's mentor and also influenced Bud Powell.
The musicians on this album include some of Williams' peers who were photographed with her on Art Kane's iconic 1958 photograph titled A Great Day in Harlem (they were trumpeter Chu Berry and alto saxophonist and clarinetist Rudy Powell.) The rest of the ensemble on this album include: Shorty Baker and Harry Lawson on trumpet, Donnelly (tb), Don Byasand Dick Wilson on tenor sax, John Harrington on clarinet, Floyd Smith on guitar, Booker collins on bass and Ben Thigpen on drums. Vocals on this album are by Pha Terrell.
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About the reviewer
Mike Tarrani (mtarrani)
My day job is in the technology sector as an IT consultant specializing in ITIL, and specifically, configuration, change and release management. I've traveled the world as a consultant before moving … more
2008 release featuring the Jazz pianist with Andy Kirk and his band, the Clouds of Joy, was one of the most popular orchestras in the mid-'30s and '40s. A lot of the credit must be given to the work of Mary Lou Williams, who played piano, wrote most of the arrangements and contributed many original compositions. Her originality is showcased on this compilation, which presents some of the band's best sides. Her style, albeit with strong individual lines, also shows the influence of Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson. 25 tracks. Definitive.