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Celebrating Mary Lou Williams, An Evening of Live Performance and Film

October 25, 2023 @ 7:30 pm

Mary Lou Williams seated at the piano, playing and smiling.

Wednesday, October 25
7:30 pm PDT
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute


Co-presented with Langston. Welcomed by KNKX.

Seattle pianist Ann Reynolds along with producer and director Kay D. Ray present an evening of music and film devoted to the music of much-loved and pioneering pianist. The live performances will be interspersed with archival film interview clips and rare performance footage of Mary Lou Williams to tell the story.

Mary Lou Williams. Williams is considered one of the greatest arrangers, composers, and musicians across time. Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1910, Williams learned piano from her mother at the age of four. She enjoyed the instrument and played numerous styles including ragtime, boogie-woogie, blues, as well as popular and classical styles. Influenced by Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Hines, and Fats Waller, she developed a unique sound that entranced countless people. She was extremely talented at not only interpreting the work of other artists but also incorporating melodies, harmonies, and counter-rhythms. While she found difficulties in navigating a jazz world unaccustomed to a woman instrumentalist with such undeniable talents, she forged ahead eventually gaining a place in the jazz world and respect from many fellow-musicians. Several important bandleaders such as Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, asked Williams to arrange music for them. Highly adept at creating her own original compositions, in 1946 the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performed her composition “Zodiac Suite.” In time, Williams became an influential figure in the jazz wold. She mentored many up and coming musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. In 1972 Williams received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1977 she was named an artist-in-residence at Duke University, where she led the jazz orchestra and taught jazz history.

The musicians who will be performing tonight include, Alex Guilbert (piano), Nelda Swiggett (piano), Heather Chriscaden (bass), Maria Wulf,(drums), Ann Reynolds (piano), Kent Stevenson (piano), Terry Morgan (bass), Freddy Fuego Gonzalez (flute/trombone), Steven Banks (drums), and Reggie Garrett (vocals).  Film editing by Susan Merrill. Ann Reynolds is a talented pianist and composer who leads several local ensembles including the Afro-Cuban project Clave Gringa and Instrumental Ladies of Jazz. Reynolds’ latest album, Inspired by Women Composers, includes an original piece inspired by Mary Lou Williams. Kay D. Ray has a history of filmmaking in Seattle honoring women in Jazz which includes the award winning films “Lady Be Good: Instrumental Women in Jazz,” “In Her Hands: Key Changes in Jazz,” and “Ernestine Anderson: There Will Never Be Another You.”

Catch this same performance again on Bainbridge Island, November 1, as part of the BIMA Within Earshot series. These performances are sponsored in part by smART Ventures through Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and 4Culture.

*Earshot Jazz COVID-19 Policy: Earshot recommends that all ticket holders be vaccinated. Policy subject to change. Full COVID policy here.

Mary Lou Williams photo by William P. Gottlieb


October 25, 2023
7:30 pm
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Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
104 17th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144 United States
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Earshot Jazz
info at earshot dot org
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