Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mary Lou Williams spends classical and jazz with ‘Zodiac’

It’s only March, but “Rashi Suite” written in 1945 by composer and jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams is already enjoying 2021.

New performances have recently been released in two versions of the suite: for the orchestra – in this case the mighty New York Philharmonic – and for the smaller jazz combo. Striking their differences, these interpretations point to the quality and artistic foresight of a composer who was once praised by Duke Ellington for being “eternally contemporary”.

He was praised in part at least from the inventive work Williams (1910–81) As an arranger in the 1930s and ’40s For Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and others. But while those arrangements, as well as his own games and creations, brought Williams to prominence during the swing, he also helped nurture the Beeb wave, which eventually brought it to an end: he did the prodigious monk and in 1957 Gave a lesson to the players. Long after Bop’s ascent, Dizzy Gillespie brought Williams to the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival.

When he did, what did he play? Selection from “Zodiac Suite”.

“Zodiac” – a series of 12 pieces inspired by Williams’ musical colleagues who were born under the respective constellations – was clearly important to him. In 1945, he recorded a triangular version, featuring his own piano playing (plus bass and percussion) for the imprint imprint, later reissued by the Smithsonian Phocavage.

Later that year, he presented a version for the Chamber Orchestra at New York’s Town Hall, which was conducted by Milton Orant, who Williams credited as having a hand in orchestration. (Exactly how hard it is to pin down an arm.) The following summer underwent a full symphonic orchestration of three of the 12 movements with the Carnegie Pops Orchestra.

In a chamber version heard at the town hall, a New York Times reviewer considered it “Rather ambitious work,” While the sophistication of that era preached the blinding classification of jazz as subordinate to classical music. (An acetate recording of the under-rehearsal town hall date Print out.) While Williams would later recall that Carnegie Pope composers preferred the selections for which they arranged, all orchestral versions – chamber and full – eventually fell into disregard.

But as part of the New York Philharmonic’s latest online presentation, “An All-American Program,” The orchestra has partnered with pianist Aaron Diethal, who is proficient in both classic and jazz, in selections from the chamber-orchestra version of the “Zodiac Suite”. In the Philharmonic’s debut, organized by Tito Munoz, the concert is being held until 6 June.

“There were some musicians who said ‘Oh, I don’t play jazz, but we really want to do that,” Diethal said in an interview. “It’s just a beautiful thing to see. And I think it could be a sign that musicians are ready to step outside their comfort zones and actually collaborate in ways that have not been detected before. “

Due to rehearsal constraints, the Philharmonic’s program consists of only four volumes, with works by William Grant Still, Charles Ives and Aaron Copeland. But the crispness of Williams’ take on the music makes it difficult for the suite to be incomplete.

In “Leo”, violinist Sheryl Staples feels a folklore for her solo. And players handle the surprising variation of “Scorpio” – switching between the gloomy Ostinato pattern and the delightful Tootie exclamation, back again – with snaps and poses. Diehl’s contribution is instrumental in hanging it all together, particularly during the most traditionally jazzy part of the work, “Kanye”, which also includes a part originally performed by a jazz trumpeter.

Diehl said he considers the piano part of the work as “his own orchestra” or “an ensemble ensemble”. In “Kanye”, he channels the Kansas City jazz tradition from which Williams has learned a lot, but when the piano makes an entrance in “Leo”, he revels in “those big ragas” that almost Like Rachmaninoff or Tchakovsky coming up or something like that. “

Once the epidemic is banned Diehl is expected to mount a full repertoire of the piece with the orchestra. But he said he appreciated how the Philharmonic was playing in Williams’ style, even in part: “He took it. And I applaud them for doing it. “

It was nothing to do: Ditthal stated that he knew of a chamber score he had unsuccessfully proposed for several orchestras, after being produced by Jeffrey Sultanoff and Rob Duboff and published by Jazz Lines Publications. . “I think there’s a lot of austerity,” he said. “Not just because of the piece. It’s more because of the musicians not being comfortable with idioms.”

But he stressed how important it was to preserve – and further – Williams’ legacy. “And that’s going to happen,” he said, “if composers – institutions – deal with it and take it and see what they think about it.”

Last month, pianist Chris Patichel released his own, more improvisational jazz-combo approach to Williams’ suite. (Called recording, Simply, “Zodiac.”) It joins former jazz adaptations of the adventurous yet respectable reading suite such as pianist Gerry Allen, who was the headliner A recording The entire work took place in the 2000s, as well as bassist Oscar Pettiford, who played a version of “Scorpio” in the 1950s.

The imaginative version of the patishell is alert to the quick-changing sense of the work. in His notes, He likes those elements for channel-surfing, as well as hip-hop productions by Madlib. That hip-hop influence can be heard in Pattyhall’s approach to “Taurus”, which thrills with some unexpectedly beat-up work.

Although the “Zodiac Suite” is heard, a good performance reflects elements of Williams’ early, swing-era music, as well as his studies of contemporary contemporaries such as Paul Hindemith. In “Morning Glory”, Williams’ biography, Linda Dahl, cited the chord change in “zodiac” as her ear’s reflective for modern music – and also quoted Williams herself “Gemini” Section, devoted to collaborators such as Benny Goodman and Harold Baker: “These people do ‘two things at a time’ at home and so in their music I’ve used two themes, in discord – bass moving in one direction and Others at the piano – but equally balanced to set the pattern of those born under the twin’s signature. “

The majority of the “zodiac sign” employs this meaning of many things going on either simultaneously or in rapid succession, such as many more overlapping approaches to style and style in Williams’s career.

“While involved in the early stages of witnessing and jazz development,” Dahl said, Williams “continually challenged the audience to be who she was – her identity as a Black American woman. She as her male colleagues There was only one important person – someone like Duke Ellington. But she did not get the credit she deserved. “

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