A trio of performers paid tribute to the compositions of jazz soloist and composer Mary Lou Williams at a musical Mass celebrated by Peter F. O’Brien, S.J., held at the University Church, Rose Hill campus, on June 15.
Soloists Honi Gordon and Andy Bey, accompanied by pianist and composer Geri Allen, sang Williams’ spirituals “Lamb of God” and “Praise the Lord,” among others, with Gordon offering an improvisational jazz interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer for the traditional Mass.
Williams, a musical arranger for Duke Ellington and mentor to bebop pioneers such as Thelonious Monk, had a career as a singer and composer in a broad variety of styles, from jazz to religious spirituals, until her death in 1981. She was considered to be one of the most significant female musicians in jazz.
Father O’Brien, a jazz historian, is executive director of the Mary Lou Williams Foundation, Inc., and owns the rights to the performer’s music.
“The origin of this great American music is the spiritual, and [Williams] was able to translate this into a rhythm that reached into the inner self,” said Father O’Brien, “from the mind, through the heart, and out the fingertips.”