I stumbled across 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz the other night while poking around for information on the Ornette Coleman documentary Made in America. It was a great find.
This BBC documentary looks at the four giant, game changing jazz records of 1959: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um, and Ornette's The Shape of Jazz to Come.
It's easy now to look back and understand the significance of this music. History, of course, has a way of letting these things settle. The doc starts out sort of rudimentary, but as it unravels, it provides great insight into the political and cultural circumstances of the time. It's astounding how some of this music was even made considering how rampant racial segregation and oppression was then. And in some aspects, it also defines the music -- fearless, confident and completely honest. Whether it's Charlie Haden talking about playing with Ornette for the first time, or how Mingus wrote "Fables of Faubus," or Brubeck's experiences playing American jazz in communist Eastern Europe, or Miles' leap into the new sound, there's plenty to chew on about the risk these musicians were taking.
In addition to providing an interesting perspective on how these four records rolled into the cultural landscape, the doc also does a fine job describing how each one of these records were pivotal breakthroughs in the jazz language. And it got me thinking about the music of the present day and if there are any correlations. What music, if any, is being made today under similarly dire circumstances, that is also as inventive and forward-thinking, and has the potential for this kind of longevity? It's a good one to ponder.
Great stuff that's definitely worth watching when you have an hour to kill. Hopefully the BBC doesn't take this down.

1959: Albums that Changed Jazz