Masters of American Music DVD Series Launched on October 27



The award-winning Masters of American Music series was the first historical documentary series produced about Jazz – not only America’s, but also the worlds, greatest art form of the twentieth century.

Dispensing with critics and historians, the series focused on the musicians: dozens of them telling the story of Jazz in their own words. Often, music performances are allowed to play out, entertaining moments are illuminated, and the irrepressible nature of the music and its greatest innovators shines through. The series set a new standard for television music documentaries.

The documentaries in this series were either broadcast or sold on VHS (sometimes both) in the 1980’s and 1990’s; this is their first appearance on DVD.

Masters of American Music is a co-production of Toby Byron/Multiprises in association with Beta Film, Munich and VideoArts Japan.

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker

The first and only authorized documentary about one of the great legends in American music.

A virtuoso saxophonist, Charlie Parker created a new style of jazz before his death at 35 and won equalfame as the king of the hipsters. Film clips, photos, and interviews trace Parker’s life from Kansas City, where he was born, to his ascendancy as a pioneer in the New York City jazz scene of the 1940’s, where he transformed jazz traditions into startling and innovative music. Celebrating Bird is the story of a musical giant and his era.

Featuring interviews with Jay McShann, Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Feather, Chan Parker, Roy Haynes, Roy Porter, Frank Morgan, and Parker’s first wife, Rebecca, interviewed here for the first and only time.

Produced by Toby Byron; directed by Gary Giddins and Kendrick Simmons; written by Gary Giddins; narrated by Ted Ross.

1990–Special invitation screenings, Umbria Jazz Festival, Italy, and North Sea Jazz Festival, Den Haag, Netherlands: “Celebrating Bird”

1987–American Film Institute/Billboard American Video Conference, Best Music Video Longform: “Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker”

1987–Video Magazine’s Best Music Video Documentary: “Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker”

Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday

Most presentations of Billie Holiday, whether in picture or in words, feature her as the sad victim of hard times and hard drugs; the black woman wailing the autobiographical blues as she’s driven down to pathetic ruin. Mining a treasure trove of new material, this documentary sets the Billie Holiday record straight–beautifully. It does precisely what a jazz film is supposed to do: it gives you abundant footage of the artist herself, doing her thing.

With interviews of Buck Clayton, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Carmen McRae, Annie Ross, Milt Gabler, Albert Murray, Mal Waldron, and Ruby Dee reading Billie Holiday’s words.

Produced by Toby Byron and Richard Saylor; directed by Matthew Seig; written by Robert O’Meally; narrated by David Smyrl.

A co-production of Toby Byron/Multiprises in association with Taurus Film, Munich and VideoArts, Japan.

1994–Cable ACE Award for Best Documentary Cultural or Performing Arts Special: A&E Network broadcast, “Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday”

Thelonious Monk: American Composer

The pianistic ringleader of the bebop revolution, Thelonious Monk is jazz’s first major composer after Duke Ellington. Through a more personal and conversational style of documentary, American Composer provides the first fully rounded portrait of Monk, a misunderstood man and musician often portrayed as not simple eccentric but crazy. Barry Harris has called Monk a great satirist; in fact the witty composer could be a master of put-on, frequently exercising this talent at the expense of those around him. This film illuminates Monk as never before.

Featuring interviews of Thelonious Monk III; Monk’s sister, Marion White; Ben Riley; Barry Harris; Billy Taylor; Orrin Keepnews; and Randy Weston. Produced by Toby Byron and Richard Saylor; directed by Matthew Seig; written by Quincy Troupe; filmed at Minton’s Playhouse.

A co-production of Toby Byron/Multiprises in association with Taurus Film, Munich and VideoArts, Japan.

The Story of Jazz

Jazz has been called America’s greatest contribution to the arts; it has existed in a recognizable form for over one hundred years, but it has a much longer history. A colorful tale of cross-cultural influences that produced a constantly evolving, enduring music, The Story of Jazz is a rich ninety-minute weave of sounds, rare film clips, stills, and interviews that places the history of jazz into proper perspective, a captivating trek through the stylistic changes that have kept jazz so fresh for all these years. New Orleans traditions, stride, swing, boogie-woogie, big band, jump band, the singers, the dancers, the blues, bebop, Afro-Cuban, cool, free-form–it’s all here.

The Story of Jazz combines an authoritative narrative with the personal firsthand observations of dozens of great jazz artists–Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Buck Clayton, Illinois Jacquet, Tony Bennett, Lester Bowie, Zilner Randolph, Bud Freeman, Randy Weston, Carmen McRae, Billy Taylor, Jay McShann, Roy Haynes, and Wynton Marsalis, among others.

Produced by Toby Byron and Richard Saylor; directed by Matthew Seig; written by Chris Albertson with Matthew Seig; narrated by Lloyd Richards.

A co-production of Toby Byron/Multiprises in association with Taurus Film, Munich, BMG Video and VideoArts, Japan.

1 Comment