Mary Lou Williams
1910 - 1981
Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and
performing are and have always been just a little ahead throughout
her career.... her music retains—and maintains—a standard
of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul.
—Duke Ellington, Music is my Mistress (p.169)
I was blessed with the opportunity to study with Mary Lou Williams from September 1979 into March 1980 when she was teaching at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. Learning from one of the 20th century’s most inspired musicians haqs been one of life’s greatest gifts. Not well-known to the general public, she was a “musician’s musician”. She worked with and was known and loved by a large majority of the people who created the unique U.S. art form called jazz, or as Duke more accurately put it in his autobiography:
“You probably heard of the word ‘jazz’. It’s all right if that is the way you understand or prefer it. We stopped using the word in 1943, and we much prefer to call it the American Idiom, or the Music of Freedom of Expression.”Music is My Mistress (p.309)
Herein is presented a collection of material celebrating this quintessential Giant of Jazz.
“Those of you who are able to understand the conversation and the feeling of Jazz, your participation through listening with your ears and your heart will allow you to enjoy fully this exchange of ideas, to sense these various moods and to reap the full therapeutic rewards that good music always brings to all who dig the sounds.”—Mary Lou Williams, from The History of Jazz (1978)
“All the music is great. It’s music that should be on earth, should be played all the time because it has a healing in it. And it’s a conversation, if you can get to it while you’re playing. It’s really needed.”—Mary Lou Williams, Keystone Korner, San Francisco, 1977