Jazzworld Movies To Binge While You’re Stuck At Home


You’re at home. We’re at home. Let’s take a break from the coronavirus anxiety that surrounds us and watch a movie … or three.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of films about jazz. And, they’re mostly documentaries. So, if you have any additional suggestions, please hit us up on social media.

If the list below doesn’t suffice, here are 10 more movies to dig through. DB

1959, The Year That Changed Jazz (Vimeo)

True to its name, the film explores significant developments in jazz during a year that would see the release of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come.

A Brother with Perfect Timing (Vimeo)

If you ever wanted to hear Abdullah Ibrahim speak at length about music, here you go. There really isn’t anything more inspiring than listening to the pianist play a bit, and then turn around and tell a story.

Chasing Trane (Netflix)

The film is an honest portrait of the consummate artist, and spans three crucial stages of John Coltrane’s career.

Green Book (Amazon)

Focused on pianist Don Shirley and his driver, the film underwent a rather significant “debunking,” despite netting a boatload of recognition and awards.

Jazz (Amazon)

Whatever your opinion of Ken Burns’ epic PBS investigation of the genre—and its clear omissions—there’s a lot to take in here. This might be the most complete collection of the music’s history on video to this point.

The Jazz Ambassadors (Amazon)

This film, which aired on PBS, endeavors to bridge the chasm in logic between a Cold War America asking Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington to tour internationally and extol the virtues of a free society while each of these iconic artists still faced racial discrimination at home.

The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith (Amazon)

Culled from thousands of hours of audio tape and tens of thousands of photos captured at New York’s Jazz Loft in the late ’50s and early ’60s by photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, this film depicts one of the more verdant moments in jazz history.

Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool (Netflix)

The movie follows, in chronological fashion, the peaks and troughs of the trumpeter’s life, beginning with his relatively privileged upbringing in East St. Louis, Illinois. It’s meant for initiates, but there still are some surprises for those who already are familiar with his work.

Quincy (Netflix)

Quincy Jones has experienced more than most human beings, and has done so alongside some of the best-known musicians in the history of recording.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix)

This is tough to watch in places, but seeing and hearing the vocalist-activist Nina Simone perform is truly a delight.

Originally published March 20; updated March 29

  • 23_Brad_Mehldau_by_Elena_Olivo.jpg

    ​“Perhaps that’s a key to what makes me tick — a very strong curiosity, which makes me a perpetual fanboy of whatever I’m discovering,” Mehldau says.

  • Ahmad_Jamal_by_Michael_Jackson.jpg

    ​Ahmad Jamal (1930–2023) with his trio at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

    In Memoriam: Ahmad Jamal

    Pianist-composer Ahmad Jamal passed away April 16 in his home in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, after battling prostate…

  • Wayne_shorter_by_Michael_Jackson.jpg

    “Remember to be a warrior, not a worrier,” Shorter said, 10 days prior to his passing on March 2.

  • 23_Jose_James.jpg

    “The more I thought about that connection, the more it made sense,”James said of comparing Erika Badu and Alice Coltrane from a musical and spiritual standpoint.

  • Eric_Reed_IMG_by_Keith_Wilson.jpg

    “When I first emerged on the scene, I was dealing with working with a certain trumpet player who shall remain nameless,” Reed said. “It was very much an indoctrinating, dogmatic point of view, but it was all I knew.”

On Sale Now
June 2023
James Brandon Lewis
Look Inside
Print | Digital | iPad