Aaron Diehl & The Knights – Zodiac Suite (Mary Lou Williams)

Mack Avenue – Street date September 15th 2023

Pianist and composer Aaron Diehl’s passion for the work of Mary Lou Williams comes to fruition with the release of the Zodiac Suite — the first complete interpretation of this incredible arrangement. Composed, arranged, and orchestrated by Williams herself, this recording provides insight into her grander ambitions for the piece, despite the setbacks she faced during its initial release in 1945. Diehl and the Knights, alongside Eric Jacobsen, highlight the composer’s imagination and vision in a suite dedicated to some of her closest friends and collaborators. Diehl pays homage here to one of the greatest composers of the 20th century as well as to the rich and often overlooked history of African-American classical music.
Mack Avenue has a unique knack for unearthing jazz treasures, whether from their own label or, as in this case, from their artists. Aaron Diehl, one of today’s finest jazz pianists, takes on a particularly challenging task here and excels in bringing this intricate work to life.

Indeed, Mary Lou Williams’ compositions are notably complex, imbued with profound intellectual depth, skillfully navigating the realms of classical music and jazz within intricately crafted musical structures. The same holds true for the arrangements. An article in The New Yorker is dedicated to Mary Lou Williams, offering an in-depth and captivating exploration, which can be found here.
The richness of Mary Lou Williams’ compositions sometimes borders on extravagance, given the multitude of influences from the realm of classical music. Further insights can be found in this profile on the National Women’s History Museum website – A major composer who passed away in 1981 after a fulfilling artistic life.
Aaron Diehl’s work here is remarkable, staying true to Mary Lou Williams’ compositions while infusing them with his own style characterized by strength and poetic form. In this regard, Aaron Diehl’s work aligns with that of Mary Lou Williams. It’s no wonder he chose to undertake the Zodiac Suite, and one can only be completely in awe of the accomplished effort to bring us this album, simultaneously fulfilling the necessary duty of preserving the legacy for young generations of musicians. Diehl pays homage to composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams while uncovering new possibilities and pathways through one of her signature works. Joined by the orchestral collective The Knights and special guests such as Evan Christopher (clarinet), Nicole Glover (tenor saxophone), Brandon Lee (trumpet), and Mikaela Bennett (soprano).
The editorial teams at Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move extend a resounding “Bravo” to Aaron Diehl for the quality of his work, making sure to add Zodiac Suite to our list of “Essentials.”

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, August 19th 2023


To Buy this album: here  and/or here