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13

THURSDAY

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It was said that Mary Lou Williams played like a man. Apparently, this was a good thing: In 1938, an anonymous Down Beat magazine writer asserted, “Outside of a few sepia females, the woman musician never was born capable of sending anyone further than the nearest exit.” (Half a century later, Frank Black and David Thomas were to make similar assertions about women as rock singers.) Williams, a “sepia female,” rejected the sex-goddess and clown-princess roles imposed on other jazzwomen—a tough thing to do in a century when market forces both demanded such gimmicks and stigmatized those who practiced them. She was later, says biographer Tammy L. Kernodle, “criticized heavily for her claims that she had not experienced…discrimination because of her gender.” But the truth about this celebrated pianist is not so simple: Williams was different—and a pioneer for it. Kernodle reads from her Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams at 7 p.m. at Borders, 18th and L Streets NW. Free. (202) 466-4999. (Pamela Murray Winters)