Recorded by Andy Kirk
Arranged by Mary Lou Williams, Prepared for Publication by Rob DuBoff, Dylan Canterbury, and Jeffrey Sultanof
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Cat #: JLP-8796


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Edition: Jazz Big Band Arrangement

Description: Swing - Medium

Publisher: Jazz Lines Publications

It was as a member of Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy that Mary Lou Williams rose to notoriety as both a pianist and a composer/arranger. Scratchin' in the Gravel, originally recorded in 1940, serves as a wonderful showcase of both aspects of Williams' musicianship, fully demonstrating why she commanded such high respect from her peers.

A short introduction consisting of blaring brass and running saxophones sets up the melody at measure 5. Although it follows a fairly typical A-A-B-A song form, Williams manages to throw in a couple unique twists to the formula. The first two A sections involve the pleasant, playful melody being handled by a cup-muted trumpet solo over a bed of riffing saxes. The bridge at measure 21 doesn't have a melody proper, instead opting for a tenor sax solo over some held tones in the brass. Rather than repeating the melody for the last A section at measure 29, Williams takes the spotlight with a piano solo with some gentle sax backgrounds underneath.

Forsaking the typical solo section that would often follow the melody in a big band arrangement, the Kirk organization launches straight into a shout chorus at measure 37. The ensemble figures are similar to the main melody at times, but diverge enough in order to provide more than enough of a change-up. The bridge at measure 53 is effectively a 4 bar call and response between the shouting brass and the more linear and complex saxes before the original melody returns in the cup-muted trumpet soloist at measure 61. A brief tag sets up the final ensemble hurrah, with the performance culminating in a final subdued but warm chord in the saxes and trombones.


Full Score
2 Alto Saxophones
2 Tenor Saxophones
3 Trumpets
2 Trombones
Trumpet 1: C6
Trombone 1: Db5