Mary Lou Williams - First Lady of the Piano

Mary Lou Williams' career has been nothing short of phenomenal. Starting out in vaudeville like many of her contemporaries, she played in 1925 at the tender age of 15 with Duke Ellington's early group "The Washingtonians." This led to a 50+ year career in music that took Williams across the world and into sessions and recordings with such musicians as Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Ben Webster, and many more.

After a religious conversion in the '50s, Williams explored new avenues of music, writing masses and other sacred music. Through it all she never lost her sense of timing and rhythm, voicing, or melodic line, proving over and over that she truly was the First Lady of the Piano. Mary Lou Williams is joined on this recording by Ken Napper on bass, Allan Ganley on drums, and Tony Scott on bongos.

Recorded 23 Jan, 1953, in London, England.

SKU: IC7006

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They Can't Take That Away From Me They Can't Take That Away From Me (alt. take) Lady Bird For You Don't Blame Me (alt. take) Round About Midnight (alt. take) Round About Midnight Perdido Kool Bongo Don't Blame Me Titoros Titoros (alt. take)

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Mary Lou Williams
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor Ken Napper on bass, Allan Ganley on drums, and Tony Scott on bongos
SKU IC7006


Customer Reviews (3)

First and Foremost!!!!Review by Big Toots
IC 7006 First Lady of the Piano

Mary Lou William’s extraordinary life and accomplishments make me think of her as “The Oprah Winfrey of jazz.” Consider, if you will, born in abject poverty and one of 11 kids, she was helping to support her family by playing parties at age 6, started performing professionally at 7, played with Duke Ellington at 13, arranged for Benny Goodman, et al, mentored Bopsters Monk, Diz and Bird, did a weekly radio show, founded her own record label and publishing company, was an active advocate for less-fortunate musicians, composed large-scale works, preached on Harlem streets and recorded The History of Jazz as performer and commentator. The life story is as amazing as it is epic, especially when one considers Williams was a woman in very much a man’s jazz world. And, it is that incredible woman’s glorious music presented in this recording.

Williams and crew recorded these twelve extraordinary selections (including three alternate takes) on one day in 1953 in London. Across the date, Williams swings viciously and simultaneously delivers an undercurrent of joy that is almost tangible. She plays piano with the same virtuosity and joy that Clark Terry had playing trumpet. This chick is having a ball and we can hear it. Adept at virtually any genre from stride and rags to swing and Bop, Williams could hang with the best of them and she sure does here (“Lady Bird,” “Perdido”). Interestingly, she has Duke and Earl Hines keyboard shadings and one can hear her stylings resonating in Ahmad Jamal (“Kool Bongo”) and both Billy Taylor and Marian McPartland (both of whom, like Williams, also crossed over into broadcasting jazz). Williams was a melody-maker and tonal lover. Her touch is elegant, never pompous or heavy (both takes of “Don’t Blame Me”). She could and does use the entire keyboard as her artistic canvas with colors from the bluest of blue (“’Round About Midnight”) to the warmest red (“Titoros”). The accompanying musicians here do a fine job in collaborating with Williams. Although I do find Tony Scott’s bongos an unnecessary distraction.

Mary Lou Williams First Lady of the Piano is about as classy and sublime as it gets. “The Oprah,” as great as she may be, can’t touch “The Little Piano Girl of East Liberty,” as you’ll hear in this treasure of a recording and its treasured artist.
(Posted on 5/4/2015)
Simon SezReview by Mary Lou Williams
It is a no brainer calling Mary Lou Williams the “First Lady Of The Piano” for before 1960, she was one of the few really major female jazz pianists. In her career she played more styles than Dick Hyman and her career from the 1920s to the 1970s is practically the history of jazz. Maybe a more accurate title would be “The First Lady President Of The Piano” since in her life she went from stride to free and back, never forgetting how to play in any of the styles and really confusing those who like to classify everyone.
There is nothing confusing about Mary Lou Williams’ playing on this album from 1953. She sounds like she is 20 years younger than she actually was, playing adventurous bop in her own style. Her versions of such songs as “Lady Bird” and “’Round Midnight” make those bop classics sound as if they were written for her, or like she wrote them herself. Mary Lou Williams was remarkable and fit into every time period.

Simon Sez: Mary Lou Williams, heard on First Lady Of The Piano (IC7006), could play in any style from 1925-75. Here she is Ms. Modern Bop.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)
Review by Scott Yanow
Mary Lou Williams, who had started her career as a stride pianist, was one of the few early jazz players who successfully made the transition to more modern styles. On this Inner City LP (drawn from recordings made for Vogue), Williams and her trio (with clarinetist Tony Scott sitting in on bongos) performs such standards as "'Round Midnight," Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird" and Wild Bill Davis's "Titoros" in convincing fashion, very much in a bop vein. Excellent music. (Posted on 6/14/2013)

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