Winner 1997

Blue Note: A History of Modern Jazz

EuroArts Entertainment OHG and SDR/arte, in association with Bravo and Danmarks Radio

This lush and lavish production, by director Julian Benedikt, documents the story of Frank Wolff and Alfred Lion, two German immigrants who escaped Nazi persecution in 1939 and founded Blue Note Records shortly after landing in New York. Together, the two men and their label repudiated Hitler’s claim that jazz was “degenerate art.” In fact, the revealing recollections of musicians, family members and business associates, plus an impressive collection of painstakingly-restored performances, raise jazz to the realm of high art and high culture. This is a rare documentary, one that is as impressive to listen to as it is to view. Many of the greats are here, presented in vintage performances, including Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis, to name a few. Executive producers Bernd Hellthaler and Ulli Pfau, and producer Michael Krause deserve special mention for the exceptional quality of the presentation. Today, the Blue Note label is recognized for its innovation and excellence. The same can be said for this enlightening and thoroughly entertaining international production. For this, a Peabody to Blue Note: A History of Modern Jazz.