Greg Poppleton

27 February Phantom Dancer - Non-stop mix of swing & jazz from live 1920s-60s radio LISTEN

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11 July 2023

(Until 11 July)

Mary Lou Williams Piano Virtuoso – Phantom Dancer

Greg Poppleton's Phantom Dancer swing jazz radio show

Mary Lou Williams was a jazz pianist, arranger, and composer and is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist. She wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded more than one hundred records versions.

She wrote and arranged for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and she was a mentor and teacher to Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie. She had her own radio show on one of the big NY radio stations in the 40s called Mary Lou’s Piano Workshop.

The Phantom Dancer is your weekly non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV every week.

LISTEN to this week’s Phantom Dancer mix (online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 11 July) and weeks of Phantom Dancer mixes online at, at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/

MARY

Mary Lou Williams was a child prodigy who could pick out tunes on a piano at age 2, began performing publicly at age 7, and was playing professionally full time at age 15. Her biggest musical influence was Lovie Austin.

At age 13 she played with Duke Ellington and his early small band, the Washingtonians. One morning at three o’clock, she was playing with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers at Harlem’s Rhythm Club. Louis Armstrong entered the room and paused to listen to her. Williams shyly told what happened: “Louis picked me up and kissed me.”

When Mary Lou Williams was 19 she was leading her own band in the US midwest. She then joined Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy serving as its arranger and composer. She provided Kirk with such songs as “Froggy Bottom”, “Walkin’ and Swingin'”, “Little Joe from Chicago”, “Roll ‘Em” and “Mary’s Idea”. You’ll hear the latter today.

Williams was the arranger and pianist for recordings in Kansas City (1929) Chicago (1930), and New York City (1930). During a trip to Chicago, she recorded “Drag ‘Em” and “Night Life” as piano solos.

She used the name “Mary Lou” at the suggestion of Jack Kapp at Brunswick Records. The records sold briskly, raising Williams to national prominence.

Soon after the recording session she became Kirk’s permanent second pianist, playing solo gigs and working as a freelance arranger for Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.

In 1937, she produced In the Groove (Brunswick), a collaboration with Dick Wilson and Benny Goodman.

Goodman asked her to write a blues song for his band. The result was “Roll ‘Em”, a boogie-woogie piece based on the blues, which followed her successful “Camel Hop”, named for Goodman’s radio show sponsor, Camel cigarettes. Goodman tried to put Williams under contract to write for him exclusively, but she refused, preferring to freelance instead

LOU

In 1942, Williams left the Twelve Clouds of Joy. She was formed a six-piece ensemble that included Art Blakey on drums.

Williams joined the Duke Ellington Ochestra and arranged several tunes for him, including “Trumpet No End” (1946), her version of “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin.

Williams accepted a job at the Café Society Downtown in Nrew York City, started a weekly radio show called Mary Lou Williams’s Piano Workshop on WNEW and began mentoring and collaborating with younger bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.

In 1945, she composed the bebop hit “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee” for Gillespie. “During this period Monk and the kids would come to my apartment every morning around four or pick me up at the Café after I’d finished my last show, and we’d play and swap ideas until noon or later”, Williams recalled in Melody Maker.

That same year she also composed the classical-influenced Zodiac Suite, in which each of the twelve parts corresponded to a sign of the zodiac, and were accordingly dedicated to several of her musical colleagues, including Billie Holiday, and Art Tatum.

In 1952, Williams accepted an offer to perform in England and ended up staying in Europe for two years. Williams was mentally and physically drained.

WILLIAMS

She became a Catholic in 1954 and dropped out of music until being persuaded by clerics to exercise her musical gift.

Father Peter O’Brien, a Catholic priest, became her close friend and manager in the 1960s. Dizzy Gillespie also introduced her to Pittsburgh’s Bishop John Wright. O’Brien helped her found new venues for jazz performance at a time when no more than two clubs in Manhattan offered jazz full-time. In addition to club work, she played colleges, formed her own record label and publishing companies, founded the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival (with the bishop’s help), and made television appearances.

Bishop Wright let her teach at Seton High School on the city’s North Side. It was there that she wrote her first Mass, called The Pittsburgh Mass. Williams eventually became the first jazz composer commissioned by the church to compose liturgical music in the jazz idiom.

Following her hiatus, her first piece was a Mass she wrote and performed named Black Christ of the Andes, based around a hymn in honor of the Peruvian saint Martin de Porres, two other short works, Anima Christi and Praise the Lord. It was first performed in November 1962 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan.

Throughout the 1960s, her composing concentrated on sacred music, hymns, and Masses. One of the Masses, Music for Peace. was choreographed by Alvin Ailey and performed by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater as Mary Lou’s Mass in 1971. About the work, Ailey commented, “If there can be a Bernstein Mass, a Mozart Mass, a Bach Mass, why can’t there be Mary Lou’s Mass?” Williams performed the revision of Mary Lou’s Mass, her most acclaimed work, on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971. She made a guest appearance on Sesame Street in 1975.

Williams put much effort into working with youth choirs to perform her works, including “Mary Lou’s Mass” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in April 1975 before a gathering of over three thousand. It marked the first time a jazz musician had played at the church.

She set up a charitable organization and opened thrift stores in Harlem, directing the proceeds, along with ten percent of her own earnings, to musicians in need. As a 1964 Time article explained, “Mary Lou thinks of herself as a ‘soul’ player — a way of saying that she never strays far from melody and the blues, but deals sparingly in gospel harmony and rhythm. ‘I am praying through my fingers when I play,’ she says. ‘I get that good “soul sound”, and I try to touch people’s spirits.'” She performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1965, with a jazz festival group.

Throughout the 1970s, her career flourished, including numerous albums, including as solo pianist and commentator on the recorded The History of Jazz. She returned to the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1971. She could also be seen playing nightly in Greenwich Village at The Cookery, a new club run by her old boss from her Café Society days, Barney Josephson. That engagement too, was recorded.

She had a two-piano performance with avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor at Carnegie Hall on April 17, 1977. Despite onstage tensions between Williams and Taylor, their performance was released on an live album titled Embraced.

Williams instructed school children on jazz. She then accepted an appointment at Duke University as artist-in-residence (from 1977 to 1981), teaching the History of Jazz with Father O’Brien and directing the Duke Jazz Ensemble. With a light teaching schedule, she also did many concert and festival appearances, conducted clinics with youth, and in 1978 performed at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. She participated in Benny Goodman’s 40th-anniversary Carnegie Hall concert in 1978.

PIANO

Her final recording, Solo Recital (Montreux Jazz Festival, 1978), three years before her death, had a medley encompassing spirituals, ragtime, blues and swing. Other highlights include Williams’s reworkings of “Tea for Two”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, and her two compositions “Little Joe from Chicago”, and “What’s Your Story Morning Glory”.

Other tracks include “Medley: The Lord Is Heavy”, “Old Fashion Blues”, “Over the Rainbow”, “Offertory Meditation”, “Concerto Alone at Montreux”, and “The Man I Love”.

In 1980, she founded the Mary Lou Williams Foundation

11 July PLAY LIST

Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINE Community Radio Network Show CRN #606

107.3 2SER Tuesday 11 July 2023
12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT)
National Program
5UV Adelaide Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am
2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am
2YYY Young Monday 3 – 4am
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Monday 3am – 4 and 6 -7pm
2MCE Bathurst Wednesday 9 – 10am
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
and Sunday 11pm
Reading Radio (QLD) Friday 1am – 2
2RRR Ryde Friday 11am – 12
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Saturday 4am – 5am
Denmark FM (West Australia) Saturday 10 – 11am
Repeat: Wednesdays 10 – 11pm
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm
2SEA Sapphire Coast Eden Sunday 9 – 10pm

Set 1
Sonny Donham
Open + Memories of You (theme) + Begin the Beguine
Sonny Donham Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City
AFRS Re-broadcast
14 Apr 1944
Suddenly It’s Spring
Sonny Donham Orchestra (voc) Billy Usher
‘One Night Stand’
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City
AFRS Re-broadcast
14 Apr 1944
Holiday for Strings
Sonny Donham Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City
AFRS Re-broadcast
14 Apr 1944
I’ll Be AroundSonny Donham Orchestra (voc) Pat Cameron
‘One Night Stand’
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City
AFRS Re-broadcast
14 Apr 1944
Set 2
The King of Jazz
Open + Cosi Cosa
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Male Chorus
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
WJZ NBC Blue NYC
12 Jan 1936
The Music Goes Round
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc and tb) Jack Teagarden
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
WJZ NBC Blue NYC
12 Jan 1936
More Than You Know
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Morton Downey
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
WJZ NBC Blue NYC
12 Jan 1936
Hold Tight + Moonlight Serenade (theme)
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Marion Hutton
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
WJZ NBC Blue NYC
12 Jan 1936
Set 3
Mary Lou Williams
Boogie Mysterioso
Mary Lou Williams Sextet
Comm Rec
NYC
1946
Mary’s idea
Andy Kirk and his 12 Clouds of Joy (piano) Mary Lou Williams
Comm Rec
NYC
6 Dec 1938
Caravan
Mary Lou Williams‘Eddie Condon Floor Show’
WPIX TV NYC
16 Nov 1948
47th Street Jive
Andy Kirk and his 12 Clouds of Joy (piano) Mary Lou Williams
Comm Rec
NYC
17 Jul 1941
Set 4
Harry James
Cirribirribin (theme) + Six, Two and Even
Harry James Orchestra
‘Monitor’
Palladium Ballroom
Los Angeles
WNBC NBC NYC
26 Jun 1955
Symphony
Harry James Orchestra
‘Monitor’
Palladium Ballroom
Los Angeles
WNBC NBC NYC
26 Jun 1955
Back Beat Boogie + Close
Harry James Orchestra
‘Monitor’
Palladium Ballroom
Los Angeles
WNBC NBC NYC
26 Jun 1955
Cirribirribin (theme) + Close
Harry James Orchestra
‘Monitor’
Palladium Ballroom
Los Angeles
WNBC NBC NYC
26 Jun 1955
Set 5
Tommy vs Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
Clariney Cascades
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
25 Sep 1946
Language of Love
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (voc) Bob Carroll
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
25 Sep 1946
Brotherly Jump
Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
25 Sep 1946
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (voc) Denny Dennis
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
25 Sep 1946
Set 6
Eddie Condon
Wherever There’s Love
Lee Wiley (voc)
‘Town Hall Jazz Concert’
WJZ Blue NYC
16 Sep 1944
The Ladies in Love
Eddie Condon
‘Town Hall Jazz Concert’
WJZ Blue NYC
25 Nov 1944
Sweet Lorraine
Red McKenzie (voc)
‘Town Hall Jazz Concert’
WJZ Blue NYC
14 Oct 1944
I’ve Been Around
Ernie Carceres (ts) Jess Stacy (piano)
‘Town Hall Jazz Concert’
WJZ Blue NYC
25 Nov 1944
Set 7
Count Basie
One O’Clock Jump (theme) + Why Not
Count Basie Orchestra
Birdland
WNBC NBC NYC
31 Aug 1952
Out of Nowhere
Count Basie OrchestraBirdland
WNBC NBC NYC
31 Aug 1952
Andy’s Blues
Count Basie Orchestra
Avadon Ballroom
KHJ Mutual-Don Lee LA
Jun 1946
Haunted Town
Count Basie Orchestra
‘Stars in Jazz’
Birdland
WNBC NBC NYC
14 Jan 1953
Set 8
Modern Jazz
Gentle Art of Love (theme) + Aw Comin’
Oscar Pettiford
Birdland
WABC ABC NYC
Jul 1957
Groovin’ for NatDizzy Gillespie Orchestra
Birdland
WCBS CBS NYC
Jul 1956
Whisper Not
Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra
Birdland
WCBS CBS NYC
Jul 1956
All Gigs
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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