||In this jazz history, music authority Linda Dahl tracks the life and career of pianist Mary Lou Williams. The engaging narrative illuminates Williams' devotion to spirituality and her determination to succeed. Despite Williams' impoverished homelife and indifferent parents, she taught herself how to read and write music and pursued public performances when she was a child. Dahl also reveals Williams' relationships with other legendary musicians, such as Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.
||Like Waters and Holiday, she had to earn her own livelihood while still a child, and became a woman before she was ready. Also like them, Mary succeeded against forbidding odds. Yet no matter how much she accomplished, she could not crack the carapace of her parents' fundamental indifference to the fact of her existence. It was musicians, not family, who nurtured her talent, who shared her life of poor-boy sandwiches, broken-down cars and rooming houses, the many stretches with no pay. But more than anything else, it was Mary's own innate vision of possibilities, her tremendous grit and empathy, that molded her musical gift. That and later her religious faith kept her going through many hard years--what she called the "muck and the mud" of American show business.
||Mary Lou Williams's childhood, like that of Ethel Waters and Billie Holiday, two other great black female musicians of her era, was rough and short.
||Mary Lou Williams--pianist, arranger, composer, and probably the most influential woman in the history of jazz--receives the attention she has long deserved in this definitive biography.