Pianist, composer, and arranger Mary Lou Williams

“Pianist Aaron Diehl is wrapping up his second season as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s artistic partner by performing the full orchestral version of Mary Lou Williams’s ‘Zodiac Suite’ May 26-28,” writes Jim Higgins in Wednesday’s (5/17) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “ ‘Although for decades Mary Lou Williams was often called jazz’s greatest female musician (and one has to admire what must have been a nonstop battle against sexism), she would have been considered a major artist no matter what her sex,’ [biographer] Scott Yanow writes … Born in Atlanta and raised in Pittsburgh, Williams (1910-81) was a child prodigy as a pianist, impressing Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong while she was still a teenager. She first made her mark nationally as pianist, arranger and composer and arranger [for big bands]… In 1945, Williams finished composing and first performed her ‘Zodiac Suite,’ an extended work of 12 pieces based on the astrological signs …  Musical scholars … describe it as a fusion of jazz and classical elements—putting Williams at least a decade ahead of the ‘third stream’ movement of blending those two styles.” Also on the Milwaukee Symphony program is Holst’s “The Planets.”