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December 2004

Tammy Kernodle
Soul on Soul: The Life of Mary Lou Williams

It sounds like a cliche, but if the phenomenal pianist and innovative composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams had not been a woman, black or born in 1910, she undoubtedly would have received much wider recognition and been much more successful. Unfortunately, she endured several lifetimes worth of repression, swindles, loneliness, disregard, along with personal and professional jealousy. Additio-nally, Williams didn't always exercise the best judgment when making career and financial decisions, which tended to consistently boomerang in her disfavor.

Kernodle, an associate professor of Music at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, diligently chronicles the life and times of the extraordinary innovator. What the author lacks in style and delivery is compensated by abundant details, footnotes and bibliography. Overall, the educator's book comprises Williams' start in dance orchestras and variety bands, struggles as solo artist, involvement in the development of bebop, creation of sacred music and becoming an artist in residence and professor of music at Duke University.

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