Film Review: Masters of American Music

“Masters of American Music” showcases legendary jazz artists.

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The digitally remastered rerelease of these five deeply felt music docs—made for TV in the ’80s and ’90s to celebrate the likes of Satchmo, Lady Day, and Bird—prompted highbrow scribes to take another swipe at Ken Burns’ 2000 miniseries Jazz, which failed to deliver on its own hype.

The projects both deserve viewing, however: Jazz for its cultural psychiatry and contagious pretension and Masters for its up-tempo direction, staccato writing, and laser focus on the musicians’ life stories and style. Each subject’s inimitability is celebrated in rare, extended pieces of performance footage.

(on DVD; EuroArts)