It's summer vacation time, and today we take a respite from the usual routine of previewing upcoming jazz shows in St. Louis to present our own little online jazz film festival.
Up above, A Great Day in Harlem is a 1994 documentary film that tells the story behind one of the most famous photos in the history of jazz: the 1958 B&W group portrait of 57 notable jazz musicians photographed by Art Kane, a freelancer for Esquire magazine, in front of a brownstone at 17 E. 126 Street in Harlem. The photo has remained an important object in the study of the history of jazz, and the film was nominated in 1995 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
Down below is The Swing Thing, a 2008 BBC documentary on swing music and dancing that spotlights some of the most popular groups and singers of the big band era.
Below that is another BBC film, 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz which uses four classic albums - Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come - as a lens through which to examine the seismic year jazz broke away from complex bebop music to new forms, allowing soloists unprecedented freedom to explore and express."
We close out with three films profiling famous jazz musicians: Buddy Rich - Jazz Legend '17 - '70, a biographical documentary on the great drummer; A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba, which looks at the legendary trumpeter's trip to the island nation for a mid-1980s music festival; and My Name Is Albert Ayler, a 2007 biography of the free jazz saxophonist.