Best Movies by Farr
Improvisation Poster
Released Runtime Category
1950 182 Documentary, Musicals
Director Language
Gjon Mili, Norman Granz English
Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald


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What's it About

In 1944, jazz producer Norman Granz and filmmaker Gjon Mili collaborated on a smoky, jazz-noir performance film called "Jammin' the Blues," which won an Oscar for Best Short Film. Then, from 1950 to 1977, the pair periodically reunited to film Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, and other musical legends doing what they did best — performing live. 

Why we love it

What makes a great jazz performance? Watch these jaw-dropping Mili/Granz films, some never before seen and now fully restored, and you’'ll understand why people like Lester Young, Buddy Rich, and Oscar Peterson are famously skilled improvisers. Rare solo piano numbers by a graying Basie (demonstrating his “stride” technique) and Ellington (with Spanish artist Joan Miro looking on!) are a treasure, too, and critic Nat Hentoff helps put it all into context with his scene-setting introductory remarks. Compiled on two DVDs, and running a full three hours, this "Improvisation" is a jazz-lover's paradise.

BEST MOVIES BY FARR is your personal guide to great movies to rent, stream, or buy; to watch at home or on-the-go. Led by film advocate John Farr, the Best Movies by Farr team works as a "quality filter" for the discerning moviegoer. Every day, we bring you the best of the best, the fantastic familiar films and hidden gems, to answer that age-old question: "What should we watch tonight?"