Mary Lou Williams in exclusive interview from CBC’s Hot Air archive

I’ll be posting interviews from the CBC-Radio Canada archives this week. The Bob Smith Hot Air archive is a treasure trove of approximately 50 interviews Smith recorded with some of the greatest stars of the day, from the world of jazz and beyond. Captured between 1950 and 1982, these interviews include conversations with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Harry James, Oscar Peterson and Lena Horne, as well as Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Liza Minnelli and many others.

Today, check out pianist, composer, and arranger Mary Lou Williams in conversation with Bob Smith for CBC Hot Air, recorded in May 1977 in Vancouver. From the interview:

Williams spoke about the spiritual and healing qualities of music, echoing the values of the iconic saxophonist, John Coltrane, someone she highly respected. Like Coltrane, Williams embraced Catholicism in her later years and even composed a jazz mass that features soulful, uplifting takes on traditional mass elements. Her criticism of modern popular music could be harsh at times, yet she incorporated the sound of ’60s funk and soul into her own music in a unique and organic way.

“I don’t think of anything until my hand touches the keyboard. Then everything starts workin’. The mind, heart, fingertips. If it misses the heart then you have patterns. That may happen due to the fact your rhythm section isn’t with it. Something like that. And if you’re on the spot you have to finish it off.”

Click here to listen to Mary Lou Williams in exclusive interview from CBC’s Hot Air archive