Dave Ratcliffe Piano

Mary Lou Williams: No Title Blues

Recordings with Max Ridley on June 7 and 14 2023; Take 1, 7 June, above.

Working at Rhymes Records in New Haven, No Title Blues, the last song on My Mama Pinned A Rose On Me (recorded 27 Dec 1977), grabbed me when I first heard it in 1978. Studying with Mary Lou Williams, I made a transcription of the piece in the Fall of 1979.

Recorded with Buster Williams on bass, the structure of this (in Mary Lou’s words) “swinging straight ahead blues,” is eight choruses of F, a three-chorus bass solo, then modulating to B-flat for the final 6 choruses.

After returning to California, I wrote out a cleaner copy of the original in 1981. While some of the pages of the original copies have been lost, copies of copies are still in the archive. The 1981 copy is missing the first two choruses of the B-flat section, and the surviving 1979 original is the final 6 choruses.


Producing accurate notation in a transcription of the timing in a recording is elusive at best. A great deal is left to be desired regarding notating the feel of the song. Every time a transcription is revisited, something more reveals itself upon closer scrutiny. Among other improvements, quarter note triplets spanning measures 91-to-92 better reflect the timing in the current transcription revision.

In line with his birthright musical spirit, Maxwell Salinger-Ridley is a gifted, inspired, generous, and supremely affable soul. I found my way to Max through Chase Morrin while searching for the next-level teacher of an exceedingly gifted young student. We arranged to meet on 7 June to record No Title Blues in the room where I teach. Take 1 is presented at the top and Take 2 and 3 follow below. As well, we performed the following Wednesday at the conclusion of the end-of-school year recital in the Roslindale Community Center.

Playing with Max and recording our collaboration was yet another blessing in the infinite string of moments making up the journey lived within this human overcoat. Realizing anew the incomprehensible and utterly mysterious reality of whatever is really going on here, endless gratitude is the beacon lighting the way.