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May 2001

John Hicks
Impressions of Mary Lou
HighNote Records

Williams has gotten a lot of praise recently, and much of it is exaggerated. While nothing is served by the contention that only her gender kept her from being regarded as a giant (it was a very indifferent live performance that convinced me not to overrate her), Williams was certainly an interesting and original pianist and thinker. One reason she hasn't been covered much until recently is that some of her most compelling compositions are more extensions of stride thinking via Ellington than part of the swing-to-bop continuum. Relatively little room is left for improvisation on such pieces. This means that the Williams originals that get performed are of a more conventional nature, and this is true on Impressions of Mary Lou. Hicks does a good job getting inside the tunes and developing them in his own way, and five of the seven tracks are actually Hicks tunes dedicated to Williams. Admirers of Hicks and Williams should enjoy this well-executed homage.

Originally published in May 2001
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