Mary Lou Williams: Zodiac Suite / Aaron Diehl, The Knights

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"American art music ambrosia." -- New York Times

Critically acclaimed pianist/composer Aaron Diehl's penchant for the past influencing the future has come full circle with his fully realized suite of Mary Lou Williams' Zodiac Suite -- the first fully-fledged professional recording of this incredible music. Solely paying tribute to Mary Lou Williams was not the goal, as Diehl's mission is to give honor and praise to one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and the forgotten rich history of Black Classical Music.


[Williams'] chamber version [of the Zodiac Suite] was in need of a contemporary champion. It has found one in Aaron Diehl — a pianist widely admired in both jazz and classical circles. On the new Mack Avenue recording, he’s joined by the adventurous chamber orchestra the Knights, which is staffed by some of the brightest younger players on the classical scene. And they’ve clearly invested time in all 12 parts of Williams’s suite.

The Knights as a whole balance lightness of touch with a forward sense of swing in the opening “Aries,” and in the regal flourishes that Williams deployed in movements like “Taurus” and “Leo.” Strings in particular seem to revel in the bluesy sliding tones of “Cancer,” which also includes the guest tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover’s elegant soloing (in a spot originally conceived by Williams for Ben Webster).

The Knights flutist Alex Sopp emerges as a key figure as the suite progresses — including when she soars dreamily atop the rhythmic patterns of “Scorpio” for significant, exposed stretches. Diehl, the bassist David Wong and the drummer Aaron Kimmel are a consistent delight — as when providing authoritative piano-trio swing during “Virgo.”

-- New York Times (Seth Colter Walls)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 15, 2023

  • Catalog Number: MAC1201

  • UPC: 673203120129

  • Label: Mack Avenue Music

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Jazz

  • Composer: Mary Lou Williams

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: The Knights

  • Performer: Aaron Diehl


  1. Zodiac Suite

    Composer: Mary Lou Williams

    Ensemble: Aaron Diehl Trio, The Knights

    Performer: Evan Christopher (Clarinet), Nicole Glover (Tenor saxophone), Brandon Lee (Trumpet), Mikaela Bennett (Soprao)