Daily Archives: November 9, 2020

MARY LOU WILLIAMS and JOHN LEWIS IN DUET at the NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 12, 1978)

John Lewis and Mary Lou Williams certainly knew and admired each other, but this is the only documented evidence I know of them in performance.  They were strong personalities, born only a decade apart, spiritually connected.  I hear two artists with expansive imaginations, their improvisations based in the blues and always showing deep respect for melody and swing.  Her playing is percussive; his, much more assertive than his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet — but it’s a dialogue, not a tussle.

The recording of this set — happily longer than thirty minutes — begins with the television crew and sound people setting up — you can  hear Mary Lou asking, “Aren’t they ready yet?”  Then the two pianists embark on deep explorations of the most familiar territory, making it vivid at every turn: I’LL REMEMBER APRIL / BODY AND SOUL / BLUES / THE MAN I LOVE / COTTON TAIL.

Let no one say that the standard repertoire is exhausted.  I feel this concert doesn’t require annotation.  It does inspire reverence.

May your happiness increase!