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StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: A jazz film mini-festival (shutdown edition)


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With live music still shut down for the foreseeable future, this week we revisit an idea used in this space occasionally during the slow weeks of summer, and offer up a mini-festival of six feature-length films about jazz.

The first film, embedded up above, is 1959, The Year That Changed Jazz, a 2009 documentary originally aired on the BBC. It uses archival performances and interviews to look at developments in jazz as reflected in four historically significant albums released that year by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman.

You can see A Great Day In Harlem, an Academy Award-nominated documentary released in 1994 that tells the story of the iconic 1958 photo of dozens of jazz greats taken on a Harlem stoop.

Next up is Mingus: Charlie Mingus 1968, a documentary by filmmaker Thomas Reichman that captures the bassist and composer at a particularly tumultuous time, including some infamous footage of Mingus being evicted from his New York City apartment.

After that, it's keyboardist, bandleader, composer and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial Sun Ra in an extended cut of Space is the Place, a 1972 film that DownBeat described as “a sci-fi trip through the East Bay during the 1970s with Sun Ra in the lead."

The penultimate video is Thelonius Monk: An American Composer, a 1993 documentary that includes archival footage and various jazz greats discussing Monk and his enduring influence on jazz.

Last but not least, it's Herbie Hancock- Possibilities a 2006 “making of" documentary about Hancock's album of the same name, featuring guest performers drawn from rock, pop, hip-hop, and more.

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