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Mary Lou Williams achieved extraordinary recognition and success as pianist, composer and arranger in a world and an era where women found often it hard to break through into areas other than simply singing with bands. Born in 1910, she built a reputation working with Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, and arranged for top bandleaders and performers like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman as well as being a mentor to major artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Her career eventually covered about half a century, so unsurprisingly her playing encompassed a variety of developing techniques, from blues to stride, and swing through bebop and beyond. This 51-track 2-CD collection comprises recordings she made over a period of over three decades from her 1927 studio debut through to the ’50s, when her work was distinctly selective and eclectic. It naturally includes a significant tranche of her work with Andy Kirk in the ’30s, but also includes solo, trio, small band and other ensembles, featuring many of her own compositions and arrangements. Inevitably it features performances by a variety of noted musicians with whom she recorded, from Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas through to British artist like Tony Kinsey and Allan Ganley, with whom she recorded during her European sojourn in the early ’50s. It’s hugely varied and entertaining, and a fine showcase for her unique and versatile talents
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