The 10 Best Documentaries About Jazz

Aug 3, 2023 | Beauty, Best Of, Celebrities, Music

Jazz music has been around for nearly a century and it has had an undeniable influence on popular culture. Documentaries about jazz have the potential to be incredibly informative, inspiring, and entertaining. Here are some of the best documentaries about jazz that you should check out


1. 1959, the Year that Changed Jazz

Jazz music has been a source of inspiration for many, influencing generations with its melodic tunes and rhythmic beats. Four Great Albums of 1959 dives into the lives of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman to discover how their music changed the face of jazz forever. From studio recording sessions to reminiscing on the past – this documentary explores the impact of jazz and how it still shapes modern musicians today.



Jazz is a music form of unbridled energy and improvisation that has captivated audiences for centuries. It began in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, with its distinct sound taking street corners by storm. Characterized by its loudness, audacity and fast-paced rhythms, jazz was unlike anything heard before in traditional folk music. Jazz musicians improvised freely, altering the melody to adapt to the sounds of other musicians playing alongside them. Soon enough, jazz was spreading rapidly throughout the US and beyond, with each region adapting it to their own taste which led to various styles like swing, bebop and cool jazz. This made jazz even more attractive as no two performances were ever alike.


3. Queens of Jazz- The Joy and Pain of the Jazz Divas

The creative world of Jazz music has been home to some of the most talented female singers in history – women whose passion for their craft transcended any restrictions society had placed on them. Queens of Jazz celebrates these amazing ladies, and takes us back to a time when race, gender, and popular culture were ever-changing forces that determined how these remarkable women made their mark.


4. Jazz Docu – The Kid From Redbank

FAIR USE DISCLAIMER: The following text is an original and unique piece of work. The purpose of this text is to inform readers about the best documentaries that focus on the jazz genre. All content comes from my own research, criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and/or research. I believe that by making and sharing this information here I am contributing to the value of the jazz genre in its potential market.


5. Art Tatum – The Art Of Jazz Piano

Art Tatum is an American jazz pianist and composer who has been hailed as one of the greatest jazz musicians in history. His remarkable technique, improvisational skill, and unique approach to harmony have inspired generations of musicians. This documentary highlights his amazing career from early recordings to his triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall. We also get a glimpse into the man behind the music, with interviews from family members and his contemporaries. Through their stories, we get a deeper understanding of the true artistry of Art Tatum. His legacy continues to live on through his music, giving us a glimpse into what jazz can truly be. There’s no denying that he was one of the most influential forces in jazz history.


6. Jazz- The Devil’s Music (1920s) Culture Shock

The Devil’s Music: 1920s Jazz is an exploration of jazz music and how it has come to be accepted as a great American art form. From the radically new, socially unacceptable musical genre, to interviews with cultural and musical innovators such as Franz Jackson, Marian McPartland, Billy Taylor and Chuck D., we gain insights into the music’s struggle for respect.


7. Jazz Legends in Their Own Words Documentary

Jazz has been a timeless, beloved genre of music since its beginnings. From classic jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington to modern day innovators like Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Sun Ra, there is no shortage of talent in the jazz world. Now you can experience the stories of these incredible musicians firsthand with Jazz Legends in Their Own Words. Featuring archival footage, interviews with family members and friends, as well as original narration, this documentary takes you on an immersive journey through the lives of these iconic jazz stars. Discover how their personal stories have shaped not only the history of jazz but modern music as a whole.


8. Documentary on the New Orleans origins of Jazz

Jazz is a vibrant and dynamic part of the history of New Orleans. It has been embraced across the world, from top jazz clubs in Europe to street musicians playing in America’s own backyards. To explore this unique musical genre further, we are creating a documentary that traces the origins of jazz music in New Orleans. We’ll uncover how ragtime, gospel and blues all mixed together in the city to create a unique sound. We’ll explore the stories of major figures in jazz, like Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, who made their mark from this beautiful city. We’ll also take a deep dive into how swing changed jazz music forever, as well as its influence on modern forms of jazz today.


9. A Great Day In Harlem

A special moment in history was captured when all of the iconic jazz musicians gathered together at 17 East 126th Street. Art Kane, a freelance photographer for Esquire magazine, took the memorable black-and-white photograph which is now known as Harlem 1958 or A Great Day in Harlem.


10. The Man Who Invented Jazz

Jazz has been making waves in the music world for decades. Its vibrant energy and bold melodies were pioneered by the one and only Louis Armstrong, better known as “Satchmo” or “Pops.” He was born on August 4th, 1901 in a poor family in New Orleans – but this wouldn’t stop him from achieving greatness. At an early age he began to perform around his hometown and soon joined King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. During the 1920s Armstrong toured with the band, honing his signature sound of trumpet playing and scat singing. His style soon became synonymous with jazz music, propelling him to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

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David B