1 hr 7 min

Mary Lou Williams Composer of the Week

    • Music

Donald Macleod charts the extraordinary life of composer and jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams’ music stands out from the crowd because, as Duke Ellington recognised, “her writing and performing have always been just a little ahead throughout her career.” A prolific composer and arranger, she was also a gifted pianist. A master of blues, boogie woogie, stride, swing and be-bop, Williams was quick to absorb the prevailing musical currents in her own music, naturally able to exploit her ability to play anything she heard around her. It is this restless musical curiosity that defines her own compositions, and led her to become friends with and mentor many younger musicians, among them Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Born around 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia, Williams grew up in Pittsburgh, where she had to overcome racial segregation, gender discrimination and the disadvantages of an impoverished family to realise her musical ambitions. Learning to play entirely by ear, she was performing locally by age six. Barely into her teens she was touring professionally as a pianist, living proof that - contrary to the prevailing views - women really could play jazz as well as men. But her artistic success came at some personal cost, with instances of domestic abuse, two divorces, a gambling addiction, and the ongoing strain of trying to support her extended family, all taking its toll over the years. After taking a spiritual path, she spent some years trying to rehabilitate addicted musicians, and developed an interest in writing sacred jazz pieces, and after a long career of some sixty years she took on the mantle of educating future generations about the cultural roots of jazz.
Over the course of the episode, Donald Macleod follows Mary Lou Williams as her life and musical pathways intertwine, from the early years playing Kansas City swing, to embracing be-bop, religion and modern jazz.
Music featured:
The History of Jazz (excerpt)
Rosa Mae
My mama pinned a rose on me
Willis
Nite Life Variations
Close to Five
Lonely Moments
Cloudy
Kool Bongo
Walkin’ and Swingin’
Corky Stomp
Froggy Bottom
Lotta Sax Appeal
Mess-A-Stomp
The Rocks
Little Joe from Chicago
Sammy Cahn & Saul Chaplin, arr. by ML Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band
A Mellow Bit of Rhythm
Twinklin’
Jelly Roll Morton, arr. ML Williams: The Pearls
What’s Your Story, Morning Glory
Scratchin’ in the Gravel
Roll ‘Em
Gjon Mili Jam Session
Boogie misterioso
Zodiac Suite (excerpt)
In the land of Oo-bla-dee
Mary Lou Williams Orchestra
In the land of Oo-bla-dee
A Fungus A Mungus
Nicole
Irving Berlin, arr. by ML Williams: Blue Skies (Trumpets no end)
Tisherome
New Musical Express
Hymn to St. Martin de Porres
The Devil
O.W.
Mary Lou’s Mass
ML Williams, Sonny Henry: Lazarus
Zodiac Suite
Syl-o-gism
Why?
Chunka Lunka
Ode to Saint Cecilie
Medi II
Blues for Timme
Praise the Lord
Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Johannah Smith for BBC Wales
For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Mary Lou Williams https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000bdx1
And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3cjHdZlXwL7W41XGB77X3S0/composers-a-to-z

Donald Macleod charts the extraordinary life of composer and jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams’ music stands out from the crowd because, as Duke Ellington recognised, “her writing and performing have always been just a little ahead throughout her career.” A prolific composer and arranger, she was also a gifted pianist. A master of blues, boogie woogie, stride, swing and be-bop, Williams was quick to absorb the prevailing musical currents in her own music, naturally able to exploit her ability to play anything she heard around her. It is this restless musical curiosity that defines her own compositions, and led her to become friends with and mentor many younger musicians, among them Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Born around 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia, Williams grew up in Pittsburgh, where she had to overcome racial segregation, gender discrimination and the disadvantages of an impoverished family to realise her musical ambitions. Learning to play entirely by ear, she was performing locally by age six. Barely into her teens she was touring professionally as a pianist, living proof that - contrary to the prevailing views - women really could play jazz as well as men. But her artistic success came at some personal cost, with instances of domestic abuse, two divorces, a gambling addiction, and the ongoing strain of trying to support her extended family, all taking its toll over the years. After taking a spiritual path, she spent some years trying to rehabilitate addicted musicians, and developed an interest in writing sacred jazz pieces, and after a long career of some sixty years she took on the mantle of educating future generations about the cultural roots of jazz.
Over the course of the episode, Donald Macleod follows Mary Lou Williams as her life and musical pathways intertwine, from the early years playing Kansas City swing, to embracing be-bop, religion and modern jazz.
Music featured:
The History of Jazz (excerpt)
Rosa Mae
My mama pinned a rose on me
Willis
Nite Life Variations
Close to Five
Lonely Moments
Cloudy
Kool Bongo
Walkin’ and Swingin’
Corky Stomp
Froggy Bottom
Lotta Sax Appeal
Mess-A-Stomp
The Rocks
Little Joe from Chicago
Sammy Cahn & Saul Chaplin, arr. by ML Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band
A Mellow Bit of Rhythm
Twinklin’
Jelly Roll Morton, arr. ML Williams: The Pearls
What’s Your Story, Morning Glory
Scratchin’ in the Gravel
Roll ‘Em
Gjon Mili Jam Session
Boogie misterioso
Zodiac Suite (excerpt)
In the land of Oo-bla-dee
Mary Lou Williams Orchestra
In the land of Oo-bla-dee
A Fungus A Mungus
Nicole
Irving Berlin, arr. by ML Williams: Blue Skies (Trumpets no end)
Tisherome
New Musical Express
Hymn to St. Martin de Porres
The Devil
O.W.
Mary Lou’s Mass
ML Williams, Sonny Henry: Lazarus
Zodiac Suite
Syl-o-gism
Why?
Chunka Lunka
Ode to Saint Cecilie
Medi II
Blues for Timme
Praise the Lord
Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Johannah Smith for BBC Wales
For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Mary Lou Williams https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000bdx1
And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3cjHdZlXwL7W41XGB77X3S0/composers-a-to-z

1 hr 7 min

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