Free Jazz

Free Jazz

13 Episodes

The free-jazz revolution that exploded in the late 1950s and early ’60s took music into hitherto unexplored realms of adventurous tonality, boundary-breaking improvisation, and ecstatic personal expression. Led by visionaries such as Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy, and Milford Graves, free jazz extended beyond music and left its radical imprint on cinema. This eye- and ear-opening journey brings together definitive records of the movement such as SPACE IS THE PLACE and ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA—both of which find a thrillingly experimental cinematic analog to the genre’s abstract sound—rarities like the long-lost French cult classic LES STANCES À SOPHIE (featuring a score by the Art Ensemble of Chicago), and visionary multimedia reveries like PROMISES: THROUGH CONGRESS, set to a late-career masterpiece by Pharoah Sanders.

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Free Jazz
  • Free Jazz Teaser

    Episode 1

  • Les stances à Sophie

    Episode 2

    Directed by Moshé Mizrahi • 1970 • France
    Starring Bernadette Lafont, Michel Duchaussoy, Serge Marquand

    A long-lost gem of New Wave–inspired French cinema, LES STANCES À SOPHIE (“Sophie’s Ways”) features an exhilarating avant-garde jazz soundtrack by the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago that ra...

  • Space Is the Place

    Episode 3

    Directed by John Coney • 1974 • United States
    Starring Sun Ra, Barbara Deloney, Raymond Johnson

    Avant-jazz mystic Sun Ra brought his pioneering Afrofuturist vision to the screen with this film version of his concept album. It’s a wild, kaleidoscopic whirl of science fiction, sharp social comment...

  • Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise

    Episode 4

    Directed by Robert Mugge • 1980 • United States
    Starring Sun Ra, June Tyson, Danny Thompson

    Years ahead of his time, composer, keyboardist, bandleader, poet, and philosopher Sun Ra coupled images of outer space with those of ancient Egypt, acoustic instruments with electronic ones, and modern Am...

  • Imagine the Sound

    Episode 5

    Directed by Ron Mann • 1981 • Canada

    The first feature documentary by counterculture chronicler Ron Mann is an eloquent tribute to a group of highly celebrated artists who helped forge the once-controversial free jazz movement of the 1960s. Bringing together interviews with and performances by l...

  • Ornette: Made in America

    Episode 6

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1985 • United States
    Starring Ornette Coleman

    This freewheeling documentary captures Ornette Coleman’s evolution over three decades. Documentary footage, dramatic scenes, and some of the first music-video-style segments ever made chronicle his boyhood in segregated T...

  • Rising Tones Cross

    Episode 7

    Directed by Ebba Jahn • 1985 • West Germany
    Starring John Zorn, David S. Ware, Rashied Ali

    This essential document of New York’s avant-garde jazz scene in the 1980s is packed with thrilling performances by boundary-pushing musicians like Charles Gayle, William Parker, John Zorn, and Wayne Horvit...

  • Milford Graves Full Mantis

    Episode 8

    Directed by Jake Meginsky with Neil Young • 2018 • United States
    Starring Milford Graves

    This portrait of renowned percussionist and founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz Milford Graves finds him exploring his kaleidoscopic creativity and relentless curiosity. The film draws the viewer through th...

  • Fire Music

    Episode 9

    Directed by Tom Surgal • 2021 • United States
    Starring John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra

    Although the free-jazz movement of the 1960s and ’70s was met with heated controversy, its pioneers—brilliant talents like Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and John Coltrane—are toda...

  • Promises: Through Congress

    Episode 10

    Directed by Trevor Tweeten • 2021 • United States

    Sound and image meet in a mesmerizing, multisensory experience in this journey through Ethiopian American artist Julie Mehretu’s expansive painting “Congress,” which sets the artwork to the acclaimed album “Promises,” a collaboration between elec...

  • The Cry of Jazz

    Episode 11

    Directed by Edward Bland • 1959 • United States
    Starring George Waller, Dorothea Horton, Melinda Dillon

    Featuring music by Sun Ra and his Arkestra, this landmark semi-documentary explores—via a heated conversation between a group of Black and white jazz aficionados—the relationship between jazz ...

  • BLACK JOURNAL: Alice Coltrane

    Episode 12

    Directed by Stan Lathan • 1970 • United States

    In this intimate portrait—produced for a segment of National Education Television's “Black Journal” television program—legendary jazz musician Alice Coltrane plays the harp and discusses her thoughts on music, spirituality, family, and the legacy of...

  • Dream City

    Episode 13

    Directed by Ulysses Jenkins • 1983 • United States

    A video companion to a twenty-four-hour group performance organized by Ulysses Jenkins, DREAM CITY collages live music, poetry, and dance into a pulsating kaleidoscope of color and sound. Frequent Jenkins collaborators Maren Hassinger, Senga Nen...