Harlem One Stop

Mary Lou Williams: Instrumentalist, Arranger and Composer

“I’m the only living musician that has played all the eras,” Mary Lou Williams confidently advised Marian McPartland in the debut 20 years ago of McPartland’s acclaimed radio broadcast, Piano Jazz. “Other musicians lived through the eras and they never changed their styles.”

She was right. Jazz fans and historians long ago concluded that Mary Lou Williams was the most important female jazz musician to emerge in the first three decades of jazz. William’s multidimensional talents as an instrumentalist, arranger, and composer made her a star from her earliest days and, over the long haul, an equal to any musician successful in those endeavors. Her longevity as a top-flight jazz artist was extended because of her penchant for adapting to and influencing stylistic changes in the music.

In his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, Duke Ellington wrote, “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career. Her music retains, and maintains, a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul.”

Source: Soul on Soul. Read more.. Rutgers University