A brief feature at Crux Now on the jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams. Another pianist has penned her biography. I will need to hunt that down. I certainly have been aware of her since I began following jazz in the early 80s and my time as a radio announcer in that genre.
What I didn’t know about was her faith journey. I was struck by the time when her musical career went on pause during a crisis in faith:
“I didn’t really stop on my own. Something carried me away; I began praying and I never thought about playing anymore… I decided to help them in the flesh instead of playing for them,” Williams responded to a question about why she left jazz.
She encouraged other musicians to pray and go to church and she intervened in lives cut down by substance abuse and other dangers of the spirit.
And a note on the genre and musician from biographer and pianist Deanna Witkowski:
It’s something where she feels no matter what the context jazz is played, it belongs in a church as it belongs everywhere else and not just in a jazz club.
As I poked online, I found a thesis on her sacred music here.