Soul on Soul

The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams
Author: Tammy L. Kernodle
With a new preface
A jazz woman in a jazzman's world, with a new preface by the author
Cloth – $125
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 10/26/2020
Cloth: 10/26/2020
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About the Book

The jazz musician-composer-arranger Mary Lou Williams spent her sixty-year career working in—and stretching beyond—a dizzying range of musical styles. Her integration of classical music into her works helped expand jazz's compositional language. Her generosity made her a valued friend and mentor to the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. Her late-in-life flowering of faith saw her embrace a spiritual jazz oriented toward advancing the civil rights struggle and helping wounded souls.

Tammy L. Kernodle details Williams's life in music against the backdrop of controversies over women's place in jazz and bitter arguments over the music's evolution. Williams repeatedly asserted her artistic and personal independence to carve out a place despite widespread bafflement that a woman exhibited such genius. Embracing Williams's contradictions and complexities, Kernodle also explores a personal life troubled by lukewarm professional acceptance, loneliness, relentless poverty, bad business deals, and difficult marriages.

In-depth and epic in scope, Soul on Soul restores a pioneering African American woman to her rightful place in jazz history.

About the Author

Tammy L. Kernodle is a professor of musicology at Miami University of Ohio. She served as associate editor of the three-volume Encyclopedia of African American Music and as a senior editor for the revision of New Grove Dictionary of American Music.


"Kernodle’s Soul on Soul serves as an essential text, working to set the record straight on one of the genre’s most significant—and conspicuously ignored—composers." --DownBeat

"The music and life of Mary Lou Williams and [this] admirable biographie ought to be required material in American history, music, and women’s studies courses. Maybe then the jazz Williams created will receive the universal embrace it deserves." --Women's Review of Books

"Recommended." --Choice


"Diligently chronicles the life and times of the extraordinary innovator."--Jazz Times