“Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band” produced & directed by Carol Bash
Studio Theater in Exile @ HV MoCA presents a documentary film about Mary Lou Williams, the renowned yet unsung jazz genius who fought to create in a world that couldn’t see past her race and her gender.
This award winning film will be presented in the Studio Theater in Exile Black Box at the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday April 23rd at 7pm and on Sunday April 24th at 1pm. The film will be followed by a talk-back with the producer & director, Carol Bash.
Twenty years ago, I walked into my in-laws home and heard this really fresh piano music playing. I reasoned it must be a new artist. I asked my father-in-law who it was and he replied, “That’s Mary Lou Williams, she’s the greatest female jazz musician ever!” I said to myself, “One of the greats? Why don’t I know her?” Then, I looked at the date of the CD and was shocked to discover that it was around 25 years old! Her sound was hip, even for today’s standards. Very soon after, I went out and bought Zoning and several of her other CDs. I was fascinated by how her playing evolved with each decade. I was intrigued and bothered about why Mary Lou Williams isn’t in the public consciousness like Dizzy, Miles, Bird and Monk. Was it because she was a woman? I filed her in my mind and the spark of curiosity was struck.
Later that year, Linda Dahl’s wonderful book, Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams was released. After reading it, I believed that, as great an artist as Mary Lou Williams was, it was her life that was fully captivating. More precisely, the obstacles that she faced and, in many ways, triumphed over is the reason why I feel her story will appeal to a general audience and must be told.
Since then, two more acclaimed books on Mary Lou Williams have been published: Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams by Tammy Kernodle and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Griffin. Yet, I am so proud that Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band is the first feature documentary on this most talented and allusive jazz giant. – Carol Bash