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The Wild Piano

Mary Anne Jackson

Mary Anne Jackson - The Wild Piano Mary Anne Jackson - The Wild Piano
33FMaryAnne Jackson

Hanover...HM-8009...HMG-905/906...[1959]...33 1/3 LP...Prismatic-Fidelity

Side 1
1) Step Right Up - Mary Anne Jackson...2:30
2) And So To Bed - Mary Anne Jackson...3:45
3) Wild Blues - Mary Anne Jackson...2:35
4) Six Bites - Mary Anne Jackson...2:30
5) 54-40 OR Fight - Mary Anne Jackson...2:35
6) Kackson Park - Mary Anne Jackson...2:05

Side 2
1) Who's To Know - Mary Anne Jackson...4:25
2) Now Then - Mary Anne Jackson...2:35
3) Then Now - Mary Anne Jackson...3:19
4) What Then - Mary Anne Jackson...4:30
5) Billy Boy - Mary Anne Jackson...4:35

Mary Anne Jackson - The Wild Piano Mary Anne Jackson - The Wild Piano


Mary Anne Jackson - The Wild Piano

IN ALL FIELDS of the arts the practitioners of genius are almost invariably male. Many gifted women have written novels, painted, composed music, and performed but the ultimate Olympian heights seem exclusively man's domain.

In the field of jazz-piano the giants are Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell, and well, here again the list is seen to be composed of men. This is not to say, of course, that there are no women who perform brilliantly at the piano. Certainly many a male pianist would be very happy to play as well as Hazel Scott, Marion McPartland, Barbara Carroll or Dorothy Donegan. And now a new name comes upon the scene from the distaff side: Mary Anne Jackson. And there is nothing timid about her entrance, let it be said, nothing merely "promising" about it. Mary Anne arrives as a full-blown talent with an exciting and original approach to her instrument. Perhaps the quality of Miss Jackson's style which first captivates the listener's attention (even more than its wildness) is its masculinity. Interestingly enough when a woman plays good jazz (or for that matter good classical) piano it is often said of her that she plays "like a man." Certainly no feminine jazz-pianist has ever played so much like a man as does Mary Anne Jackson. Her performance is vigorous, stabbing, punching. Even in her most tender passages there's always an underlying suggestion of strength and bold authority.

As regards her technique, it would seem, at least on the basis of the selections in this collection, that Mary Anne's keyboard facility has something less than the fluidity of Tatum, Wilson, or Mel Powell. In this particular regard she is closer to Theolonius Monk or Bud Powell in that while she seems entirely capable of playing occasional clusters of single notes at a furious speed she is evidently unable (or perhaps only uninterested) in lacing out a graceful Wilsonesque descending arpeggio. Her habit of holding back for three or four measures and suddenly dazzling the listener with the above-mentioned clusters imparts to her style an element that is peculiarly unpianistic in that it more readily suggests what Charlie Parkerused to do with his similar clusters of 16th-notes or 32nd-notes.

That this is not merely a subjective critical impression is indicated by Mary Anne's open admission of deep admiration for Parker. "I think he had as much influence on my playing," she says, "as did Bud Powell, Theolonius, Count Basie, Lennie Tristano, or Hank Jones."

Another striking thing about Mary Anne's style is that its harmonics become occasionally wildly free-form. As one fan said when listening to this tape, "sometimes Mary Anne gets so far out she makes Theolonius sound like Lawrence Welk." Indeed Miss Jackson's harmonic progressions sometimes sound, to the unsubtle ear of a mere critic, almost random and haphazard. Meticulous attention to a replaying of the track, however, proves that this accusation is without foundation and that Miss Jackson's occasional discords are as meaningful as they are in the most impressionistic passages of Monk or Lennie Tristano. And even when her harmonics are startlingly far-out she makes at least two concessions to our ignorance; she continues to swing and she dishes out ideas that have a certain structural symmetry of the sort more commonly encountered in drum solos than piano choruses.

But perhaps all this critical analysis is putting the cart before the horse.

Perhaps the question should first be faced: where on earth did Miss Jackson come from? There seems no shortage at present of excellent pianists but usually long before the public becomes familiar with their names there is a fairly lengthy period during which musicians and jazz-critics are aware first of their existence, secondly of their promise, and thirdly of the sureness of their progress. In Miss Jackson's case, however, it is an instance of: here she is and look out! So we return to the question of her origin. Where has she been hiding while developing her talent? The answer evaporates the mystery handily. For the past five years Mary Anne has lived in Europe, playing and studying in Paris, Rome, Florence, and the Riviera.

American jazz-lovers who have been to Paris will have visited, if they are fortunate. The Mars Club, a small, out-of-the-way bistro which boasts a jazz policy and which is frequented by traveling American musicians. According to my sources Miss Jackson played there on a number of different occasions in 1956 and 1957. She also worked that same year at "Timmi's" an ultra-exclusive jazz joint in Rome, a hangout so far off the beaten tourist track that not even many American musicians are familiar with it. It is evidently a sort of key-club which serves as a trysting place or hideaway for the more uninhibited Roman social element.

Not a great deal is known of Miss Jackson's early history except that she was born in Seattle, that her father was a post-man, that her mother gave her her first piano lessons and that at the age of nineteen she studied for a time in San Francisco.

As for the songs in this package it is interesting to note first that they were all written by Miss Jackson. While this obviously adds a note of freshness, it does present one disadvantage in that the listener might have preferred the inclusion of a standard or two by way of evaluating Miss Jackson's ability to perform on a familiar track. Such hair-splitting notwithstanding, however, Mary Anne certainly paid phenomenal attention to the matter of change-of-pace. No two of these songs are similar, although in a few of them a commonality of the blues is shared. "Step Right Up," the opening selection, starts out as a seemingly conventional enough finger-snapping blues but before long the typical Jackson departures are introduced.

Careful attention to "Six-Bits" may give the listener something of the sensation produced by patting the stomach while rubbing the head in that it combines three-quarter time with 4-4. Mary Anne's piano and the bass sustain the waltz tempo while the rest of the rhythm section play four-square. How Miss Jackson contrives to swing under this technical limitation is something of a mystery but swing she does.

The lovely ballad "And So To Bed" brings her closer to earth than she is at any other point in this collection.

"Mary Anne's Blues" is one long loose, earthy solo that is extremely melodious. The ideas here, too, seem more saxophone-like than pianoish.

Currently Miss Jackson is studying in Copenhagen but on the basis of this dazzling first showing it is devoutly to be wished that she is invited to return to the United States for additional recording and, even better, a series of personal appearances.

Morton Simon
Palo Alto, California 1959

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