Journey Through American Music Episode 4: Free Jazz to Future Jazz

2008 • 0h 46m

Episode 4 of a musical journey through the origins of American music presented by Morgan Freeman. Each episode mixes documentary and performance whilst retracing the roots of American music and features performances at Montreux from such legendary artists as Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Al Green, Carlos Santana, and Eric Clapton.

Jazz is one of America’s great gifts to world culture. In this absorbing program Oscar-winning actor and music enthusiast Morgan Freeman tells the story of jazz’s varied and sometimes challenging postwar history. After the musical revolution of bebop in the 1940s there came an even more challenging style, free jazz, formulated by Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s; concurrently, John Coltrane took Miles Davis’s experiments with "modal jazz" and made them his own. Don’t worry, these slightly intimidating concepts are fully explained in the program by jazz musicians, such as Greg Osby and Matthew Shipp.

Charles Lloyd is a sax player who took on board a lot of Coleman and Coltrane’s ideas, and during the 1960s he lead one of the most popular jazz combos in the world. We see him here playing with an Indian tabla player. Two more of Davis’s disciples, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, are also showcased. Both played highly influential roles in developing "jazz-fusion" in the late 1960s. This was a style that started to incorporate electric instruments and elements of rock. Shorter, one of the true saxophone greats, co-founded Weather Report in the 1970s, while keyboardist, Herbie Hancock sold over a million albums with his band Headhunters, and has since been sampled by many rappers.

More recently the jazz flag has been flown by an array of musicians. As examples of this diversity, we are introduced to the brilliant young pianist Brad Mehldau and then to the avowed traditionalist, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, from New Orleans, bringing us back full circle to where jazz began.