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Connecting to Jazz Virtually

More than ever, as we stay within our walls, this desire to connect stands out. This year, International Jazz Day performances have gone virtual, and amazingly all day, education and music from around the world have existed at our fingertips. Learn more here.

In support of a month of opportunities, the Smithsonian, originator of Jazz Appreciation Month, has suggested a variety of ideas and resources to delve into, in particular focusing this year on Women in Jazz.

JazzArts Charlotte also has also striven across Jazz Appreciation Month to offer ideas on how you can bring the jazz to your home, with livestreams, books, videos, and music tips.

Below are a list of some of our favorites, so that you can celebrate along with us.


Check out this set of reputable documentaries and movies that offer an enjoyable glimpse into the great stories of jazz.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.

2019 documentary of a visionary, innovator, and originator who defied categorization and embodied the word cool: a foray into the life and career of musical and cultural icon Miles Davis. 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I call him Morgan.

2017 documentary. On a snowy night in February 1972, celebrated jazz musician Lee Morgan was shot dead by his wife Helen during a gig at a club in New York City. The murder sent shockwaves through the jazz community. This film is a love letter to two unique personalities and the music that brought them together. 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

2015 biography documentary of a compelling — albeit necessarily incomplete — overview of its complex subject’s singular artistic legacy and fascinating life. 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Keep on Keepin on.

2014 documentary. An inspiring personal story of an iconic jazz legend and his passing of the torch to his last student. Legend Clark Terry has played in the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands, broke racial barriers on television, and mentored the likes of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. In the film, his student is Justin Kauflin, a blind piano prodigy. 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ken Burns Presents History of Jazz.

2001 television documentary miniseries. Broadcast on PBS and released on DVD. Its chronological and thematic episodes provided a history of jazz, emphasizing innovative composers and musicians and American history.



Consider this set of reading material for an afternoon in the sunshine of your lawn, or your bedtime stories.

Miles: The Autobiography

by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe (Simon & Schuster, 1989)

For more than forty years Miles Davis has been in the front rank of American music. Universally acclaimed as a musical genius, Miles is one of the most important and influential musicians in the world. The subject of several biographies, now Miles speaks out himself about his extraordinary life.
Miles: The Autobiography, like Miles himself, holds nothing back. For the first time Miles talks about his five-year silence. He speaks frankly and openly about his drug problem and how he overcame it. He condemns the racism he has encountered in the music business and in American society generally. And he discusses the women in his life. But above all, Miles talks about music and musicians, including the legends he has played with over the years: Bird, Dizzy, Monk, Trane, Mingus, and many others. (summary from Amazon)

To Be, or Not … to Bop

by Dizzy Gillespie with Al Fraser (Doubleday, 1979)

You don’t have to know John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie’s songs to feel his influence. The self-taught trumpet player rose from a poor but musically driven upbringing to become a jazz mastermind, founding the bebop movement and giving rise to Afro-Cuban music. (summary from Amazon)

Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper

Art and Laurie Pepper (Schirmer, 1979)

Art Pepper, 1925-1982. Jazz musician. Innovator. Played with Benny Carter, Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne. Called the greatest alto saxophonist of the post-Parker generation. Also: junkie, convict. And the author of Straight Life, the self-portrait that manages to put the pieces of this life together. (book back cover notes)

Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton, an Autobiography

by Gary Burton (Berklee, 2013)

Winner “Best Book of the Year” 2014 award from the Jazz Journalists Association. In Learning to Listen , Gary Burton shares his 50 years of experiences at the top of the jazz scene. A seven-time Grammy Award-winner, Burton made his first recordings at age 17, has toured and recorded with a who’s who of famous jazz names, and is one of only a few openly gay musicians in jazz. Burton is a true innovator, both as a performer and an educator. His autobiography is one of the most personal and insightful jazz books ever written.   (Berklee Press)

Lady Sings the Blues

by Billie Holiday with William Dufty (Doubleday, 1956)

A masterpiece, as fresh and shocking as if it were written yesterday’ Craig Brown”I’ve been told that no one sings the word ‘hunger’ like I do. Or the word ‘love’.”Lady Sings the Blues is the inimitable autobiography of one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century. Born to a single mother in 1915 Baltimore, Billie Holiday had her first run-in with the law at aged 13. But Billie Holiday is no victim. Her memoir tells the story of her life spent in jazz, smoky Harlem clubs and packed-out concert halls, her love affairs, her wildly creative friends, her struggles with addiction and her adventures in love. Billie Holiday is a wise and aphoristic guide to the story of her unforgettable life. (summary from Amazon)


Keep watching Social media, where we continue to add to this list of ideas.

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