Ms. Mary Lou Williams: A Great Musical Pioneer of Jazz and Gospel

Mary Lou Williams, 1946
Mary Lou Williams (1946 photo taken by William P. Gottlieb, released to public domain Feb. 10, 2010).

Ms. Mary Lou Williams: A Great Musical Pioneer of Jazz and Gospel
by Greg Callaway and Rex Djere

The purpose of this article is to introduce readers to the great jazz artist Mary Lou Williams. We also introduce the reader to a musical medium termed “Gospel Meets Jazz”. This medium is from Roman Catholicism's interpretation of gospel music to jazz where the jazz medium spreads from Classical, Free Jazz, Hard Bop, Swing, Big Band, and Bebop.

When Mary Elfrieda Scruggs was born on May 8th, 1910, the world did not yet know about the musical force of nature that God had created. Mary was born on a Sunday, the Lord's Day, and the world would soon come to know her as Mary Lou Williams: a master of the piano, a master of composition, and a master of Jazz. However, a little known fact is that Mary Lou was a deeply spiritual woman who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1956. In this article, we will present Ms. Mary Lou Williams musical genius, the genius that produced the beautiful composition known as Mary Lou's Mass.

It takes a unique individual to be qualified across many different genres. Mary Lou Williams wrote and arranged for many of the greatest bandleaders in the world including Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Andy Kirk (Mary Lou Williams, 2013). She was also a friend, mentor, and teacher to a Who's Who of the Jazz world: Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, and many more (Mary Lou Williams, 2013).

Ms. Williams composed some major works that paid homage to her Catholic faith:

Many of Mary Lou Williams' jazz compositions and albums can be found on Spotify, a commercial music streaming service: