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Mary Lou Williams: Nite Life

This marvelous collection, recorded in 1971, does full justice to Mary Lou Williams. There are twenty-four performances of solo piano here, superior notes by her mentor, Father Peter O’Brien, S.J., and over thirty minutes of “jazzspeak,” where she tells of her beginnings and career. Besides the content of the original LP, there are no less than eleven previously unissued selections. Early successes like “Nite Life” and “Cloudy” are here, and two takes each of “Little Joe from Chicago,” “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?” and “Scratching the Gravel,” along with several unfamiliar originals and three Joplin titles.

She was not at all pleased, Fr. O’Brien reveals, to be asked to play the ragtime pieces at a concert, from which these three versions derive. When she “laid into the piano” with jazz abandon, it provoked laughter which, he says, “Threw her just a bit.” The subsequent applause presumably mollified her.

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