Mary Lou Williams, the pianist, arranger, and composer whose career in jazz traced a line all the way from the Kansas City scene of the late 1920s through the swing era, bop, the 1950s jazz expatriate community, and an academic job at Duke in the late 1970s, also helped to pioneer sacred jazz in the early 1960s. After converting to Catholicism in the mid-1950s, Williams maintained a low, almost non-existent profile in the jazz world, emerging briefly in 1957 to play with Dizzy Gillespie at Newport. In the early 1960s she began composing jazz pieces with religious underpinnings, culminating in a series of jazz masses. We’ll hear material from the recently re-issued mass Music for Peace and the 1964 album Black Christ of the Andes (which includes guitarist Grant Green and saxophonist Budd Johnson on several tracks).
You can hear Mary Lou Williams in another Night Lights program, The Zodiac Suite.