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Mary Lou Williams, 1930s   Mary Lou Williams, 1944
Mary Lou Williams
1910 - 1981
Mary Lou Williams, 1953  Mary Lou Williams, 1965  Mary Lou Williams, 1979

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

Mary Lou Williams, Pianist-Composer-Arranger, was one of the few musicians who played through all the eras in the history of jazz. I was blessed with the opportunity to study with her from September 1979 into March 1980 while she was teaching at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. Although I came to the conclusion while there that I simply wasn't obsessive enough to want to practice all day every day and play all night every night (as this was what seemed called for if one was serious about living the music), the opportunity to learn from and briefly get to know one of this century's most extraordinary musicians was among the greatest gifts I will receive from life. Never 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 American art form called Jazz, or as Duke more accurately put it in his resplendent 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 growing collection of material regarding this quintessential Giant of Jazz.

-Dave Ratcliffe


History Of Jazz
Mary Lou Williams


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