The independent filmmaker Carol Bash began her early career working at CBS’s “60 Minutes” (receptionist and production assistant). Before long, she realized her interest wasn’t in television. She wanted to tell more in-depth historical stories about African-Americans.
On Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., her gem documentary, “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band,” that was 10 years in the making, will premiere in New York City at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Ave. at 135th Street).
Aside from the film and lecture, the well-respected pianist who travels from avant-garde to traditional jazz will also perform. For ticket information, visit the harlemstage.org.
“My persistence for this project really paid off,” noted Bash in an interview with cable TV host Jewel Kinch-Thomas. “I discovered Williams through her music at my in-laws’ house, and after reading the book ‘Morning Glory’ on her life, I was influenced to do this documentary. I related to her story and struggles.”
Williams had two strikes against her—she was Black and female. But neither stopped her from becoming the most influential female jazz musician, arranger and composer to ever hit the scene.
Born in 1910, Williams greatly influenced Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie and Randy Weston. Monk even had a key to Williams’ apartment and visited after his gigs, practicing until the early afternoon.
Williams earned a reputation writing and arranging for such bandleaders as Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. She wrote the “Camel Hop” for Goodman’s radio show, which was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes. As a member of Andy Kirk’s big band, at age 19, she also wrote and arranged.
In 1945, Williams composed the bebop hit “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee” for Gillespie, which was later recorded by the saxophonist Allen Eager.
Throughout the 1960s, many of her compositions included sacred music in the form of hymns and masses. One of the masses, “Music for Peace,” was choreographed and performed by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater as “Mary Lou’s Mass.” In 1957, she performed with Dizzy’s band at the Newport Jazz Festival. She had a two-piano performance with avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor at Carnegie Hall in 1977, and later that year, she accepted an appointment at Duke University as artist-in-residence (from 1977 to 1981). Williams died May 28, 1981.
In 1983, Duke University established the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.
On Sept. 23 and 24, Gary Bartz, the alto and soprano saxophonist who has consistently explored the Black music Diaspora from traditional jazz to funk and the roots of Africa, will share his repertoire at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival (60th Street at Broadway) for two shows at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
These evenings, billed as “Bartz at 75,” are a few days shy of the composer’s 75th birthday on Sept. 26. If you compare the photos from his 1969 live recording of “Home! NTU Troop” and his current CD “Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Music Warrior,” you will notice his large afro remains, but now it is white.
“I don’t feel any different at 75,” said Bartz. “I am intent on playing and hopefully helping the music to grow.”
For this birthday outing, Bartz will be joined by his longtime intuitive band, comprising the guitarist Paul Bottleneck, the pianist Barney McAll and the drummer Greg Bandy.
On this latest CD, he offers his brand of gusto and individual hypnotic swing on such Coltrane notables as “Dahomey Dance,” “Pristine” and “Nita.” His original “Birdbrained” is his personal tribute to the master that jumps with every note (OYO Records, his own label).
Growing up in Baltimore, Bartz was right in the jazz mix, getting an education on and off the bandstand at his father’s (Floyd Lee Bartz) jazz club, the Northend Lounge. There he saw musicians such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Junior Cook and Blue Mitchell. “With my father’s club, I had a place to work,” said Bartz. “Playing at the club is how I got an opportunity to play with Art Blakey.” He has recorded more than 40 solo albums and more than 200 as a guest artist.
As he celebrates 75 years, he continues to play with a seasoned roar. He won a Grammy Award in 2005 for his playing on McCoy Tyner’s album “Illuminations.” In October, after this performance, Bartz will be honored with the BNY Mellon Jazz 2015 Living Legacy Award at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
For ticket information, visit jalc.org.
On Sept. 23, John Coltrane’s birthday, the Brooklyn Raga Massive will present a birthday tribute at Pioneer Works at 159 Pioneer St. (in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn).
With records such as “Om” and songs such as “India,” Coltrane and his legacy have led a movement toward bringing Indian music influences, especially raga, closer to the world of jazz. Brooklyn Raga Massive will dive into the Coltrane legacy with song selections spanning the works of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and the master himself, John Coltrane.
The concert begins at 8:30 p.m., followed at 10 p.m. by the BRM Raga Jam Session until midnight. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
The website is http://brooklynragamassive.com.