Sixty-one years ago, the great Mary Lou Williams emerged from the Asch recording studios in New York City. She had recorded her Zodiac Suite in a single day, June 29, 1945.
Way back then, we called it "modern jazz." While jazz terminology changed over the years, we called it by other names but it’s still "modern" today. Williams (1910-1981) dedicated the suite movements to musicians she particularly admired and who were born under the various Zodiac signs.
Originally issued on 78 RPM discs, the Zodiac Suite has been reissued on Smithsonian Folkways
records. The Folkways edition enjoyed a rare five star rating in Rolling Stone
. The 1945 trio featured Mary Lou Williams with bassist Al Lucas and drummer Jack Parker.
The 21st Century edition of the trio features pianist Geri Allen, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart. Andrew Cyrille takes the drummer’s throne for two pieces, "BeBop Waltz" and "Thank You Madam." The latter is a beautiful tribute to Williams penned by Geri Allen.
The Zodiac Suite: Revisited
liner notes go into superb detail regarding the musical lineage of the suite and the Mary Lou Williams Collective. Geri Allen captures the jazz pioneer’s spirit with wondrous enthusiasm and sincere dedication. Ms. Allen considered this recording project back in 1999 and the years of preparation make this album worth the effort. The trio comes together like a finely executed work of art.
The Zodiac Suite is not a trivial project and the listener must be prepared to set aside an hour of uninterrupted time to fully appreciate the CD. The ample notes by producer Father Peter O’Brien SJ go into great depth and fill a sixteen page booklet. Sound samples are available at CD Universe. Zodiac Suite: Revisited
will be in stores Feb. 7, 2006.