Watched the Netflix John Coltrane documentary three times and don’t fancy the Taylor Swift story? If you’re running out of jazztastic lockdown TV options then the Qwest TV app may be the answer. Co-created by Quincy Jones, this video-on-demand service specialises in jazz (“from bebop to laptop”) as well as soul, funk and world music. The catalogue of some 1,300 concerts and documentaries is indeed impressive. We asked John Bungey and Adam Sieff to tip some of their favourites. (Incidentally, it’s QWEST TV, not Quest, unless you want to watch AFC Wimbledon v Rochdale highlights.)
JOHN BUNGEY’S SELECTIONS
The Monk and the Mermaid: The Song of Charles Lloyd (Picture above)
Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is the colour supplements’ idea of a veteran jazz hipster, an idea reinforced by the wizened shaman tootling his flute on a balmy seashore as this 2009 French documentary opens. But this profile of a fascinating figure, whose story takes in B.B. King, Keith Jarrett, Hendrix, Ornette Coleman, Coltrane and Michel Petrucciani, is well told as he travels from flower-power Sixties sensation to elder statesmen.
Esbjörn Svensson: A Portrait
“In their last year they did 32 shows in the US … they were catching up on Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. They would have been one of those massive acts that does the business,” says the former manager of Esbjörn Svensson’s piano trio, EST. Talking to bandmates and his wife, this poignant Swedish documentary profiles the pianist whose group seemed on the verge of global success when Svensson died tragically while diving in 2008.
Chick Corea: The Musician
While Qwest seems to have one Keith Jarrett show (which is on YouTube anyway), it is liberally stuffed with Corea choices. Of some 15 films, a good start is this documentary about the making of the pianist’s all-star 70th New York birthday shows in 2011 (if you bought the deluxe edition of the Musician album you’ll already know it). John McLaughlin, Eddie Gomez, Gary Bartz, Bobby McFerrin and Jack deJohnette are among those playing or talking, or both.
Aretha Franklin: Live in Paris
The queen of soul (picture above) in roof-raising form at the Palais des Sports in 1977 with costume changes and hits a go go – You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Midnight Train to Georgia, Rock Steady and Respect (that one oddly rushed). Showing her range, she also delivers a swinging Singin’ in the Rain and La Vie en Rose. Talent-show shriekers, watch and wonder.
Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Live at Oslo Jazz Festival
Fancy some Zen funk post-jazz? OK, the way Bärtsch’s band dispenses with melody to concentrate on mesmerically overlaying grooves is not to all tastes but this seems fantastic post-pub jazz telly to me. Ronin’s rhythms swim around the ears in beguiling fashion (especially for the lightly refreshed) as the players slowly build towards a Steve Reich-meets-James Brown climax. The dim club lighting makes no concession to the film crew.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: The Centennial Trilogy
Over a fusillade of broken beats and hip-hop rhythms the New Orleans trumpeter unveils “stretch music” – stretching the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of jazz. Recorded in 2018 and celebrating the music’s first century this is a credible vision of what the second century might bring. Marvel at the leader’s self-designed angled bell trumpet, marvel also at his haircut, the sharpest on Qwest. There’s a good show from a 2013 line-up also available.
Wayne Shorter Quartet: The Language of the Unknown
Back to Paris for a fascinating peek into the mighty brain of Wayne Shorter, set around a concert at the Salle Pleyel in 2012. “There has to be mystery,” the saxophonist says, “we have to play like we don’t know everything.” Pianist Danilo Perez talks about dealing with instructions such as “Put some water in that chord.” When Perez tells the bandleader that he has had an out of body experience improvising with the group, Shorter isn’t surprised: “With Miles Davis we were flying all the time.”
Thelonious Monk 1963
Admire the woolly hat, the sharp suit and the shuffle-dancing. Two cameras on the Brussels stage capture the flowering of a wayward talent as the world catches on to Thelonious Monk. The material is Monk’s Dream and Criss Cross era – so Bye Ya, Epistrophy and Nutty played by a crack bop quartet for a demure but enthusiastic Belgian audience. With one camera right by Frankie Dunlop’s drum set you get a close-up view of the motor propelling Monk’s dissonant magic.
ADAM SIEFF’S SELECTIONS
Ibrahim Maalouf – A few melodies… Live at Arènes de Nîmes (Picture above)
This is a wonderful 35 minute ‘Qwest Original’ live performance film of the trumpeter and composer Ibrahim Maalouf that was made earlier this year. If this is the standard Qwest are aiming for with their own content I’d sign up to this service for that reason alone.
The Sound of New York
The director Gloria Rebecchi’s documentary series featuring 30 minute episodes on Mark Turner, Gerald Clayton, Stefan Harris, Greg Osby, Bilal, Damon Reid, Matthew Stevens and Theo Croker. With contributions from Ashley Kahn, plenty of artist introspection and evocative New York camerawork, this is well worth seeking out.
Binker Golding’s Band – Live at Moods
One of a number of shows filmed at Moods club in Zurich of the new British scene, (there’s also Daniel Casimir and Tess Hurst, Richard Spaven and Shabaka and the Ancestors), this is tenor behemoth Binker Golding on fire with the wonderful Sarah Tandy, Daniel Casimir and Sam Jones. Great repertoire from the ‘Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers’ album and playing to match.
Amos Garrett – Live at the New Morning
One of my guitar heroes, if you don’t know the name you’ll probably remember his marvellous guitar solo on Maria Muldaur’s ‘Midnight at the Oasis’. It’s a fine quartet gig from 1997 that’s full of blues, classic soul and R&B with plenty of effortless guitar licks and impossible double stops to savour. This is one of many rootsier shows available from the extensive New Morning archive.
Down The Rhodes – The Fender Rhodes Story
Not one, but two documentaries on the Fender Rhodes electric piano. They both cover similar territory, but between them feature a stellar lineup including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Donald Fagen, Al Jarreau, Robert Glasper, George Benson and Marcus Miller.
Makaya McCraven – Live at Jazz à Sète Festival
A 2019 performance of the drummer/producer filmed at the port city of Sète with a great band – Greg Spero on keyboards, saxophonist Irvin Pierce, guitarist Matt Gold and bassist Junius Paul. Beautifully filmed and recorded, the setting by the sea is gorgeous and the playing is fantastic.
Gypsy Musicians from Romania
A 1992 documentary focusing on the gypsy musicians of the Transylvanian plains. Although the poverty and lack of amenities is chastening, there are some marvellous characters, family gatherings and raucous wedding parties with plenty of music and wild dancing. The Taraf virtuoso violinists are quite something.
Roland Kirk Quartet – RTBF Archives 1964
Roland Kirk (picture above) armed with instruments performing with an excellent local lineup of pianist George Gruntz, bassist Guy Pedersen and drummer Daniel Humair They play a half hour set that includes a fine version of ‘Milestones’. The RBTF Archives reveals plenty of gems, as well as Brubeck, M.J.Q., Monk and many more there’s a great Bobby Jaspar and René Thomas Quintet to be found.
IF – Live in 1972
Also from the RBTF Archive comes a very pleasant surprise – Terry Smith, Dave Quincy, Dick Morrisey et al in full jazz rock mode. Although the quality of the colour presentation and graphics show their age in a way black and white doesn’t seem to do somehow, the music still stands up well and, as you would expect with such a lineup, the playing is excellent.
LINKS/ INFORMATON: Qwest TV is free to subscribers of Samsung TV Plus and Huawei Mobile. Outside of these subscription services the terms are:
– a free seven-day trial then £4.99 a month or £49.99 a year – LINK HERE
News piece on recent press conference