It's hard to overstate Wayne Shorter's influence as a saxophonist and composer -- he has rightfully earned a place as a jazz legend. His tenor playing draws on the enhanced Bebop virtuosity of John Coltrane, minus the brittle edge; Shorter's playing has such a flowing feel that he almost seems to be composing heads to a tune in real-time when he improvises. He was groomed to be perfect in any setting. As a featured soloist and music director in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, he mastered the raw, bluesy feel of Hard Bop, moving on to Post Bop in 1964 after joining Miles Davis's influential late '60s quintet. He then helped to pioneer jazz-rock Fusion when he formed Weather Report in 1970. Many of his songs are required learning for aspiring jazz musicians, such as the bluesy "Footprints." But it doesn't take a musician to understand the expansive beauty of a ballad like "Fall." Both songs exhibit his innovations: with one foot in the blues, Shorter expanded the scope of a jazz composition and added complexity to its chords -- but he did it with such melodic perfection that he didn't leave listeners behind, as many of his contemporaries in the '60s did.
Runtime: 52 minThe Jazz Sessions spotlights Andrew Hill, a great and even groundbreaking composer and pianist. While many of his contemporaries were totally jettisoning the rhythmic and harmonic techniques of bop and hard bop, Hill worked to extend their possibilities; his was a revolution from within. He exhibited a determined command of his materials, however abstract they might sometimes be. His composed melodies were labyrinthine, rhythmically and harmonically complex tunes that exhibit a sophistication born of mastery, not chance or contingency.
Runtime: 1 hr 41 minRobert Mugge's SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS looks at tenor saxophone master Sonny Rollins, among the greatest artists in jazz history. Named after one of Rollins' best-known albums, the 1986 film documents an ensemble performance in upstate New York and the world premiere of his Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra in Japan. Interviewed are Sonny and Lucille Rollins and three top jazz critics.
Epitaph: Live from Lincoln Center
Runtime: 2 hr 20 minOn June 3rd, 1989, the Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center was the venue for the world premiere performance of Charles Mingus' masterpiece "Epitaph". Conductor Gunther Schuller directed 30 musicians in what the New York Times described as "One of the most memorable jazz events of the decade". The piece had been discovered after Mingus' death in 1979 and painstakingly restored and copied. It is the largest and longest piece for jazz orchestra ever written and is now available here on film for the first time.
The Miles Davis Story
Runtime: 2 hr 4 minTrumpeter-bandleader Miles Davis (1926-91) was a catalyst for the major innovations in post-bop, cool jazz, hard-bop, and jazz-fusion, and his wispy and emotional trumpet tones were some of the most evocative sounds ever heard. He was also one of the most identifiable and misunderstood pop icons of the 20th century. This engrossing British documentary shows the complex layers of this magnificent and mercurial artist. Through rare footage and interviews, we learn of Davis's middle-class upbringing and his early days with bop legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The documentary bluntly deals with Davis's narcotic nadir and his rise from the depths to become a bona fide jazz icon in the mid-'50s to late '60s. But the most penetrating and poignant portraits of Davis come from musicians who played with and were influenced by him, including Shirley Horn, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Keith Jarrett.