There’s something about a tenor sax that’s just
special. Range, richness of tone, certainly, but maybe there’s something
to how the instrument is played. Virginia Mayhew does the instrument
justice as she and her quartet present Mary Lou Williams – The Next 100
Years (Renma Recordings, 2012).
Mayhew is accompanied by Ed Cherry on guitar, Harvie S on bass and Andy
Watson on drums. Special guest Wycliffe Gordon plays trombone on selected
tracks. The ensemble celebrates 2010 as the 100th anniversary of the birth
of songwriter Mary Lou Williams.
The set begins with “J.B.’s Waltz,” a swinging blues piece written in 3 /
4. Williams was among the first jazz musicians to play in anything other
than 4 / 4. Written for her half-brother, Jerry Burley, this rendition
features solos by Mayhew, Cherry and Watson. Regardless of who’s out
front, or even if the ensemble plays as a whole, Harvie S holds it
together on the bass.
“Medi I” and “Medi II” were written in the 1970s for Williams’ Zoning. The
title is short for “meditation.” In this set, the numbers are reversed,
with “Medi II” preceding “Medi I.” The former is a lively tune that
features the blend of tenor and trombone during the melody. The latter is
a slow, brooding blues piece with Cherry setting the tone. The bass line
and subtle drum and cymbal textures add depth.
Mayhew has been an active participant in the New York jazz scene since
1987. She has played with many artists and as a leader at many festivals
around the world. Discography includes six as a leader and many others
performing with other artists.