The Lady Who Swings the Band
The lady whose spirit swings this great band lived long enough to hear, play and write all the styles of jazz that reverberated throughout the 20th century. Mary Lou Williams was born in 1910 and died in 1981. Few jazz artists enjoyed her longevity or talents.
Thanks to researchers Rev. Peter F. O’Brien, head of the Mary Lou Williams Foundation, and Dr. Walter van de Leur, who was seeking her unknown compositions/ arrangements, and archivists at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, nine world premieres are among the 13 rediscovered scores recorded here by the versatile Dutch Jazz Orchestra. The band has remained faithful to Williams’ charts, which often reveal an attempt on her part to capture the essence of Duke Ellington’s band. She sent a great many arrangements to Ellington in 1967, shortly after Billy Strayhorn’s death, hoping to furnish the bandleader the same assistance his partner had provided. Ellington had used a few early Williams’ charts, but he never used any of the later ones. The most interesting is “Scratchin’ in the Gravel,” which was obviously intended as a Johnny Hodges showcase. Here altoist Albert Beltman does a convincing job of paying the inevitable tribute.