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.
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.
Live in Munich
Runtime: 1 hr 2 minFor more than 50 years, trumpeter/bandleader Miles Davis was a major innovator of cool, modal, avant-garde, and fusion jazz styles. This program captures Davis's band: alto saxophonist/flutist Kenny Garrett, Keyboardists Robert Irving III and Adam Holzmann, lead bassist Joseph "Foley" McCreary, and bassist Benjamin Rietveld, percussionist Marilyn Mazur, and drummer Ricky Wellman, live in Munich, Germany on July 10th, 1988. With these musicians' sympathetic and syncopated support, Davis's trademarked Harmon-muted trumpet tones dance and trance over the combo's supple electric swing. Throughout the concert, Davis glides across the stage with the elegance and power of a dancer and a fighter, huddling with his sidemen to play and share a phrase. Interview snippets with Davis feature the trumpeter frankly discussing his other passion, artwork. All told, Miles in Munich shows that the man called "Prince of Darkness" was full of artistic light near the end of his creative life.