viernes, 2 de abril de 2010

Mary Lou WILLIAMS - Black Christ of the Andes 1964

Mary Lou WILLIAMS - Black Christ of the Andes 1964
2004 Reissue.

The Smithsonian Folkways reissue of Mary Lou Williams's 1964 experimental classic BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is an excellent package. With four previously unreleased bonus tracks and an annotated booklet including track-by-track notes and accompanying photographs, there is no shortage of extras. Fortunately, one also gets the remarkable original album--a project of great ambition on which Williams melds spirituals, blues, and jazz into a forward-thinking suite that draws the thematic parallel between Christian spirituality and African-American music.

Stylistically, BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is nothing if not eclectic. Peppered with spiritually themed a cappella choral pieces, Williams's album spins through a history of modern music. Sophisticated interpretations of familiar tunes (including a smoky "It Ain't Necessarily So) alternate with Williams's originals. The fractured, avant-classical "A Fungus A Mungus," for example, gives way to the fun bounce of "Koolbonga," before closing out with the rollicking "Praise the Lord." The artist's piano skills are on full display here, too; her solos show her roots as a stride pianist, yet also find her conversant with post-bop and modal playing. For its musical range and breadth of vision, BLACK CHRIST OF THE ANDES is a stunning and singular achievement.

Complex and brooding suites by jazz artists have often received mixed reviews. Whether hailed as brilliant and visionary or slammed as self-indulgent and trite  Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige, Charles Mingus' infamous Town Hall Concert, or even Wynton Marsalis' Blood on the Fields all come to mind these works are, if nothing else, great risks for the artists involved. At the time of its initial performance, "Black Christ of the Andes" (or "St. Martin de Porres") was called everything from "blues stripped of its accent" to a "hokey prayer," prompting Williams to cut it from her repertoire before the release of the LP in 1964. An unfortunate fate for a very enjoyable and, now, highly regarded piece of music. Williams explained her pioneering concept of pairing jazz with spirituals as an attempt to heal the disparity between the gifted nature of the African-American and his tendency toward the worst kinds of sin. In fact, the original title for this LP was Music for Disturbed Souls. Certainly, by 1962 others had employed the modes and feel of the church into jazz, but Williams' use of the Ray Charles Singers (no relation to the other Ray Charles) added an element that made "St. Martin," an a cappella choral piece, a much more church-oriented affair than, say, John Coltrane's "Spiritual." Williams' vision, like Coltrane's, was at times dark and sobering while at others full of warmth and hope. It would have been completely out of place, however, at the Village Vanguard. This is a piece that belongs, if not in the church, then certainly out of the nightclub circuit. Other tracks on this LP, though, like her sublime rendition of "It Ain't Necessarily So," would have been welcome in their dark and smoky confines. Otherwise, expect a jump blues number, a handful of trio cuts (some featuring Percy Heath), and a smattering of various vocal combinations throughout. A number of styles are represented here and they weave amongst one another with ease and grace. This is a very enjoyable record with some especially rewarding piano solos by Williams. [The 2004 reissue contains four previously unreleased bonus tracks.]
By Brandon Burke.
Mary Lou Williams- Piano;
The Ray Charles Singers (1,3),
The George Gordon Singers (5,14);
Conductor,Howard Roberts (1,3);
Bass- Theodore Cromwell (2,4), Larry Gales (5,14), Percy Heath (6,7,8,10,11,12,13);
Drums- George Chamble (2,4), Percy Brice (5), Tim Kennedy (6,7,8,10,11,12,13);
Guitar- Grant Green (5,14);
Bass clarinet- Budd Johnson (5);
Tenor Sax- Budd Johnson (14);
Solo vocals- Jimmy Mitchell (5,14)
01. St. Martin De Porres 6:32
02. It Ain't Necessarily So 4:41
03. The Devil 4:00
04. Miss D.D. 2:28
05. Anima Christi 2:48
06. A Grand Night For Swinging 3:06
07. My Blue Heaven 3:21
08. Dirge Blues 2:57
09. A Fungus A Mungus 3:21
10. Koolbonga 3:21
11. Forty-Five Degree Angle 2:50
12. Nicole 3:37
13. Chunka Lunka 3:07
14. Praise The Lord 5:55


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