Newsweek called the score "an encyclopedia of black music, richly represented from spirituals to bop to rock. It is perhaps the most openly religious jazz recording made at that time. In her own words, it is "Music for the Soul. Skip to main content. Music of, by, and for the people. Explore Learn Join Shop. Browse By. Eastern Africa. Middle Africa.
Scruggs, Mary Elfrieda] b. Atlanta, 8 may; d. In she joined a group led by John Williams, whom she married. After leaving Kirk in , Williams formed her own small group in New York with her second husband, Shorty Baker, as trumpeter.
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Jazz history, especially that of instrumental jazz, is a world of men. You would hard pressed to find very many women from the early years of jazz who were not singers. She was a rarity: a woman jazz pianist, who also traversed seemingly every style of jazz during her lifetime. Her place in jazz history, includes working with such jazz legends as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. She was a lonesome pioneer. There she taught herself to play the piano at the age of three. She loved to play the piano, but quickly found out she needed to play, in part, to protect her family. Williams told journalist John Wilson in the Jazz Oral History Project at the Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies that her white neighbors used to throw bricks at her house and would often only stop if she offered to play a recital for them.
Her writing and playing have become part of the pattern of jazz history. Running through all the emotions, it speaks volumes, for there is much in its creator that comes out in the music, a part of herself she cannot help revealing, so that at times one has the feeling almost of intruding on her thoughts, of hearing secrets not meant to be shared, of being able to probe the recesses of her mind. She possesses a natural ability to generate a swinging feeling—an infallible time sense—an original harmonic concept, a way of voicing chords that is only hers. Whatever her mood, whatever the tempo, she weaves a pattern, a design, faint at first, like a rubbed drawing, but then appearing more strongly, until it breaks into a kaleidoscope of color. Mary Lou has found the way to put her emotions, thoughts, and feelings to good use. They come out powerfully, and sometimes prayerfully, for the spiritual side of the blues is always strong in her work. Yet, there is a mysterious air, an enigmatic, slightly feline quality about her, which contrasts strangely with her direct, down-to-earth way of speaking. One senses the inner fires, the inner tensions, and though she keeps her voice low, at times there is in it a note of bitterness.