Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Women You Should Know - Mary Lou Williams

You may have noticed that this week's quote was from Mary Lou Williams.  She's a big touchstone for me in the world of female artistry.  Like most of us, she was driven to use her gift in an art form dominated by men.  Her seriousness of purpose, her talent, her ear, her technique, and her spirit all pushed her forward even when the tide was pushing her back. 

She is up there in the world of jazz, in the world of piano, in the world of American composers, arrangers, and bandleaders.   When you think how easy it is to give up - to stop sharing your words or your vision - to let yourself really believe what they tell you about being a woman and an artist, think Mary Lou Williams.  She never gave up; she just played.  Past the trend of pretty women jazz singer/pianists in pretty dresses,  through the decades of jazz defining itself, she played.   She never lost her innovation - in fact, I think she grew into her voice and her style as jazz modernized - her later compositions seem strong, effortless, and timeless.  (Her album Zoning is an absolute favorite of mine.)

When people talk about Mary Lou Williams, they never talk about her personal life.  They talk about her playing.  Just as it should be, and just as she would have wanted it.

(If you'd like to be a guest blogger in the Women You Should Know series, contact me with your idea for who you'd like to profile!  Ground rules:  Non-living female, not a household name, no more than 500 words.)

No comments: