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Mary Lou's Mass

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Album Review

Like many such ambitious conceptual projects, Mary Lou's Mass wasn't quite as impressive in its results as it was in its artistic scope. It's more or less acceptable, successful gospel-jazz fusion, sometimes vocal, sometimes instrumental. While the vocal selections seem to be aiming to be uplifting and inspirational, sometimes they can get a bit hokey in their abundance of cheer. The musical tone, while commendably eclectic, is uneven, from deft piano bop and Latin-tinged rousers to funky gospel stompers, down-home bluesy piano interludes, and melodramatic solo vocal turns. [The material on the 2005 CD version of Mary Lou's Mass is not identical to the tracks that came out on the 1975 LP release of the same title. Mary Lou Williams' "mass" was an ambitious work upon which composition dated back to the mid-'60s, and this CD is the most complete version of it ever issued, though the 32-page booklet somehow does not manage to make it clear what was first released where, and what's previously unreleased. Generally, however, it can be deduced that it includes recordings from both the albums Music for Peace and the 1975 version of Mary Lou's Mass, as well as some previously unissued selections, adding up to 61 minutes of music. Serious Williams admirers will appreciate the attempt to put the most complete version of her vision together for this CD release, as well as the extensive annotation that accompanies it.]


Born: 08 May 1910 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

To say that Mary Lou Williams had a long and productive career is an understatement. Although for decades she was often called jazz's greatest female musician (and one has to admire what must have been a nonstop battle against sexism), she would have been considered a major artist no matter what her sex. Just the fact that Williams and Duke Ellington were virtually the only stride pianists to modernize their style through the years would have been enough to guarantee her a place in jazz history...
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Mary Lou's Mass, Mary Lou Williams
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