Mary Lou Williams Festival Women in Jazz Festival Opens in Washington

Classic Arts News   Mary Lou Williams Festival Women in Jazz Festival Opens in Washington
The Kennedy Center's 10-year-old Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival opens tonight with performances by pianist Hiromi, the quartet Agrazing Maze, and the Kit McClure Big Band.

Agrazing Maze features drummer Allison Miller and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, both rising young players; Kit McClure is a veteran saxophonist.

The festival, which runs through May 21, also includes an evening of Williams' big-band works, including never-before-heard pieces in addition to her hits. Pianist Geri Allen will perform Williams' 12-part Zodiac Suite, a 1945 jazz tone poem originally performed by the New York Philharmonic.

Free performances on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage include a performance by a group of collegiate all-stars and the Women in Jazz Pianist Competition.

One of the first female instrumentalists to come to prominence in the world of jazz, Williams got her start in Kansas City in the 1930s as pianist, composer, and arranger for Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy. In the '40s, she moved to New York, where she became a part of the nascent bebop scene. Later, she created a series of ambitious, large-scale works, including some inspired by her conversion to Roman Catholicism.

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