Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

121—Catholic Jazz Legend Mary Lou Williams—Deanna Witkowski

By Catholic Culture Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 09, 2021 | In The Catholic Culture Podcast

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Mary Lou Williams: one of the outstanding jazz pianists of all time, composer, Catholic convert, visionary, performer of works of mercy.

Because Williams’s career lasted and her style adapted through many changes in jazz from the swing era to the early 1970s, and because she mentored two of jazz’s most influential figures (Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk), this episode is an opportunity not only to dive into her life and music, but to learn a little about jazz history more generally.

Deanna Witkowski, herself a jazz pianist and Catholic convert, has written a new biography of Williams, Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul, and performs Williams’s compositions on her forthcoming album, Force of Nature.


Buy Deanna’s book and album:

Musical tracks heard in this episode: Mary Lou Williams: “Waltz Boogie”, “Walkin’ and Swingin’“, “Night Life”, “Holy Ghost” (composed by Larry Gales), “Autumn Leaves” (composed by Joseph Kosma), “Aries”, “Taurus”, “Virgo”, “Anima Christi”, “St. Martin de Porres”.

Excerpts from Bud Powell, “Cherokee” (composed by Ray Noble); Thelonious Monk “Monk’s Dream”; Elmo Hope, “Eejah”.

Deanna Witkowski, “Intermission”, composed by Mary Lou Williams and Milton Suggs, used with permission. From Deanna Witkowski’s album Force of Nature.

Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus. Download the Catholic Culture Podcast soundtrack.

Thomas V. Mirus is Director of Podcasts for, hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See full bio.

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