The Zodiac Suite

female jazz album cover

“…With just a casual interest in astrology, Mary Lou Williams created her 1945 Zodiac Suite as a series of character sketches, musical portraits of friends from each sign that she would debut on a weekly radio show. “Aries” is for Ben Webster and Billie Holiday, “Taurus” for Duke Ellington, and “Libra” for Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. The pieces include piano solos, duets with bassist Al Lucas, and trios with the addition of drummer Jack “The Bear” Parker. The suite is both a remarkable exercise in extended composition and an index of Williams’s varied palette. Her mix of blues and boogie roots and strikingly modernist harmonies is sometimes similar to Monk’s, while her lighter, impressionist playing can evoke Claude Debussy (and the way Debussy colored the piano music of Bix Beiderbecke). The cumulative work, though, has a warmly sustained lyricism that can only suggest comparisons with Ellington. The Zodiac Suite would assume more ambitious forms, with a chamber orchestra setting for the entire suite later in 1945 and a large orchestra adaptation of three movements a year later. Dizzy Gillespie recorded three movements with his big band in 1957. But the intimacy of these original recordings is very special, with Williams effectively blurring the line between composition and improvisation…”

From Amazon

Might be fun if you are both a Jazz & Astro-Fiend. One of the Amazon reviews notes that “Taurus plods, Pisces waltzs and Scorpio sneaks.”  Mary-Lou Williams was Taurus, with Moon, Venus & Saturn in Aries.

13 thoughts on “The Zodiac Suite

  1. A few years ago my 6 yr old daughter’s montessori pre-school teacher gave her extended day/kindergarten class a goodbye CD of music with Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cat Stevens, John Lennon – Blackbird, Bob Dylan – Tambourine Man, Billie Holiday et al. (Her teacher had her tongue pierced too)

    I knew then the extra $ were worth it. Now she is at a public school and I wish she was still getting this every day.

  2. Scorpio sneaks huh?

    My alpha tauri doesn’t plod. He has one of the most purposeful elbows out blokey strides I’ve ever seen.

  3. Funny, I adore blues and jazz (New Orleans here I come) but it’s the ones she has down for libra that I’m not so keen on. No libra in my chart, and with the honorouable exception of Myst’s libran followers, I don’t know any I like.

    6 year olds being introduced to quality music – if only everyone could be so enlightened!

  4. both late husband and I love jazz and blues and our sprogs didn’t feel enlightened by listening to it. They still give me a hard time about Fats Waller. His ‘Two Sleepy People’ was our song.

    • That was probably because it came from parents rather than some cool infant school teacher with a tongue piercing! You did your best Chesh, but your sprogs are obviously heathens :)

      My ma played Glen Miller at full volune on Sunday mornings to wake us up. Hated it then, but love it now.

    • I’m pretty pleased with the mix of music my daughter’s have grown up with…no real sustained complaints as as they got older we’d give their music a go too. A couple of years ago I found the Sagg’s love for melodic japanese music punctuated with screams a little hard…and they have yet to work out why I like Elvis Costello or zydeco sometimes.

      Our ipods for the most part are eerily similar for Spazzy Aqua and I. Sagg daughter is still 6months ahead of any trend so we just let it all filter down.

      • Spazzy Aqua I love it! Just asked Libra-Scorp if he could describe me as that without hesitation it was “Yep”.

  5. Blos, they all like Glen Miller’s String of Pearls.

    Here goes…Aries marches; Taurus strolls; Gemini romps; Cancer dances; Leo boogies; Virgo ambles; Libra glides; Scorpio sneaks; Sagg falls over every-bloody-thing in their path even when they saw “I mustn’t trip on that”; Cap drives (why walk when you can drive); Aqua struts; Pisces sidles.

    • Ooh Chesh, lovely. I can think of examples of most of those – especially the saggs – pal I’m going to visit has just injured her foot. In the year since she emigrated she has broken several teeth, smashed her best crystal vase by dropping it on her foot, and injuring that too, an impressive collection of insect bites and stings …

      Pisces nephew definitely sidles. I definitely stroll. I can do a very brisk stroll, or a slow, laconic one. Even my 10 mile sunday morning walks, I guess you could call strolls – stopping to watch the birds, paddle in the sea, smell a flower, look up at the sky, pick up a shell, taste the breeze, feel the salt air drying my skin – it’s never a walk from a to b.

  6. for some reason this thread isn’t showing in my recent comments section. Only the bloggers.