And His Clouds of Joy: Lady Who Swings the Band
Mary Lou Williams
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A SPECTACULAR COMPILATION SHOWCASING ONE OF THE GREATEST SWING BANDS OF ALL TIME!
MARY LOU WILLIAMS’ SKILLS AS PIANIST, ARRANGER AND COMPOSER ARE EVIDENT ALL THROROUGH!!
Andy Kirk and his band, the “Clouds of Joy”, was one of the most popular orchestras in the mid-thirties and forties. A lot of the credit must be given to the work of Mary Lou Williams, who played piano, wrote most of the arrangements and contributed many original compositions. Her originality is showcased on this compilation, which presents some of the band’s best sides.
While the majority of jazz musicians have been male, the presence of a woman in a jazz band wasn’t very unusual within the history of the genre. In fact, one of the first New Orleans units to gain fame – King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band – featured Lil Hardin on piano as early as 1922. (She would later marry the band’s second cornet player, who was none other than Louis Armstrong!
She can be heard on many of the celebrated Hot Five recordings from 1925 and 1926, before Louis met Earl Hines.) However, the most common role for a woman in jazz was as a singer. The case of Mary Lou Williams is unique, for she helped to build the spirit and success of Andy Kirk’s orchestra not as a singer, but as an instrumentalist, arranger and composer. Previously known only as Mary, Williams took the name "Mary Lou" at the suggestion of record producer Jack Kapp. Her first solo records gained her recognition and she soon signed on as Kirk's permanent second pianist, playing solo gigs and working as a freelance arranger for such noteworthy names as Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. Williams had become one of the most sought-after composers of the Swing Era.
Attention must be paid to three main elements of the impressive sides selected on this CD. One of them is, obviously, Mary Lou Williams the piano soloist, who is heard extensively both soloing and backing other instrumentalists or vocalists. Her style, albeit with strong individual lines, also shows the influence of Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson. The second aspect worth mentioning is tenor saxophonist Dick Wilson’s playing.
A distinctive voice more related to that of Chu Berry than to those of Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young, he was to die of tuberculosis in 1941, when he was only 30-years old. The third element is, of course, the band itself as a cohesive unit playing Mary Lou’s compositions and arrangements.
01 WALKIN’ AND SWINGIN’ 2:40
02 MOTEN SWING 3:05
03 FROGGY BOTTOM 3:10
04 BEARCAT SHUFFLE 3:00
05 PUDDIN’ HEAD SERENADE 2:33
06 THE LADY WHO SWINGS THE BAND 2:43
07 KEEP IT IN THE GROOVE 3:02
08 A MELLOW BIT OF RHYTHM 3:19
09 BEAR DOWN 2:59
10 TWINKLIN’ 3:05
11 MESS-A-STOMP 3:06
12 WHAT’S YOUR STORY, MORNING GLORY? 3:07
13 MARY’S IDEA 2:58
14 CLOSE TO FIVE 2:52
15 SCRATCHIN’ IN THE GRAVEL 3:07
16 THE COUNT 3:07
17 TWELFTH STREET RAG 2:54
18 BABY BEAR 2:49
19 HARMONY BLUES 2:48
20 RING DEM BELLS 2:45
21 CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS 2:44
22 SKIES ARE BLUE 3:03
23 I WON’T TELL A SOUL (I LOVE YOU) 3:16
24 FLOYD’S GUITAR BLUES 3:12
25 WHAM RE BOP BOOM BAM 3:05
ANDY KIRK and His Clouds of Joy
MARY LOU WILLIAMS, piano on all tracks
FEATURING DON BYAS, HAROLD “SHORTY” BAKER, RUDY POWELL AND DICK WILSON.
All arrangements by Mary Lou Williams except 5 (Clyde Hart) and 9 (Earl Thompson).
All tracks recorded in New York, 1936-1941.