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Jazz Music

Documentaries and Films


The Story of Jazz - New Orleans Stomp

New Orleans tour guide John McCusker takes us on a tour of historical jazz locations in New Orleans.

Louis Armstrong

A British documentary about the great jazz musician and singer Louis Armstrong that appeared on the U.S. A&E cable channel.

The Swing Thing

An important 2008 BBC Four documentary that presents the history of swing music, a form of jazz that became the first worldwide pop phenomenon during the 1930s and lasted through the 1940s.

Art Tatum - The Art of Jazz Piano

A 1988 documentary about the legendary jazz pianist Arthur Tatum Jr., an important innovative jazz artist, and one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time.

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker

The “Masters of American Music” television documentary from 1987 about the life of Charlie Parker (1920-1955). It is narrated by Ted Ross and directed by Gary Giddins, whose book by the same title was revised and republished by the University of Minnesota Press.

Billie Holiday – Sensational Lady (BBC)

“Controversial celebrities of the 20th century. Jazz singer Billie Holiday is remembered today for her turbulent personal life as much as for her artistic achievements – addicted to drink, drugs and abusive men, the enduring image is of a tragic victim. (BBC)”

To Bop or Not to Be: A Jazz Life (1990)

To Bop or Not to Be: A Jazz Life, a 1990 documentary about trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie by Norwegian director Jan Horne, features musician interviews in English, concert performances and archival footage.

Music in the Key of Oscar

The 1992 documentary on the life and music of the legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. It was written by Bruce Garvey.

Song of the Spirit - The Story of Lester Young

A documentary written and produced by Bruce Fredericksen. A rare film of the great saxophonist who was nicknamed Prez, along with on-camera interviews with the likes of Bobby Scott, Jo Jones, John Hammond, John Lewis, Buster Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Connie Kay, friends and relatives, bring the elusive legend of Lester Young to life. (Jazz Legends)

A Great Day in Harlem 1958

“A Great Day in Harlem is a 1994 American documentary film directed by Jean Bach about the photograph of the same name. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Director Jean Bach acquired an original home movie showing the 1958 photo shoot from musician Milt Hinton. She used Hinton’s home video as the basis for her hour-long documentary. 

Motion Pictures

Bix, an Interpretation of a Legend (1991)

Bix is a 1991 Italian drama film directed by Pupi Avati and starring Bryant Weeks. The plot is about the final years of cornet player Bix Beiderbecke. It was entered into the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. Bryant Weeks plays American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke in an account of his life. Mark Sovel plays his friend and collaborator sax saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. The film focuses on his conflicts with his family and his relations with the prominent jazz musicians of the 1920s, such as Hoagy Carmichael, Joe Venuti, Pee Wee Russell, Don Murray, and Paul Whiteman.

Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

“Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 musical film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. It features the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as dancing by the Nicholas Brothers. It also features Dorothy Dandridge, performing “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded the first Gold Record for sales of 1.2 million. (Wikipedia)”

The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)

“The Fabulous Dorseys is a 1947 fictionalized biographical film which tells the story of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, from their boyhood in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania through their rise, their breakup, and their personal reunion. The film is a musical, but has many comic overtones. The Dorsey Brothers star as themselves. Other actors include Janet Blair, William Lundigan, Sara Allgood and Arthur Shields. Janet Blair demonstrates that she is a highly competent singer. (Wikipedia)”

The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

The Benny Goodman Story is a biographical film starring Steve Allen and Donna Reed, directed by Valentine Davies and released by Universal-International in 1956. The film is based on the life of famed clarinetist Benny Goodman, who recorded most of the clarinet solos used in the film. The film captures several major moments in Goodman’s life but it has been described as less than accurate in details. (Wikipedia)”