presented in partnership with Wichita Jazz Festival

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band

Wichita Jazz Festival


90 Minutes


Carol Bash



Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band is a documentary about a brilliant outlier, a woman who dared to live on her own terms. In a time when women were expected to stay at home and raise children, Mary Lou Williams forged her own path as an unparalleled jazz pianist, composer and arranger.

But this is also the story about a woman who pays a high price battling the gender and racial barriers in her way. Through her lens, we tell a larger story about women’s ongoing struggle for equality. The gender politics that Mary Lou Williams encountered throughout the twentieth century still remain: the struggle to be treated as an equal based on merit; the fight for equal wages; and society’s over-emphasis on physical beauty in female presentation.

The goal of this film is to break open and engage these themes through rigorous dialogue in screenings and community outreach events in schools, churches, youth groups and arts organizations across the country.