DVD Review: Icons Among Us

Following the success of The Civil War and Baseball, Ken Burns and PBS released Jazz, a sterilized institutional treatise for mass consumption that harkened back to the “good ol’ days” of jazz. Pushing forth the “neo-classical agenda” of people like Stanley Crouch and Wynton Marsalis, the documentary only dedicated a fraction of the series to music made in the latter half of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, the format presented the medium as a dead “museum music,” to quote Miles Davis. A decade on, enter Icons Among Us. Lars Larson, Michael Rivoira, Peter J. Vogt have created a spectacular piece of documentary filmmaking that showcases some of the most innovative and daring artists in jazz including Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., Anat Cohen, Esperanza Spalding, and Medeski Martin and Wood, talking about several topics including economics, influences, tradition, innovation and philosophy. Unlike the aforementioned Jazz, the film showcases various (often divergent) viewpoints and repeatedly questions what jazz actually is and how it fits into the socioeconomic climate of the 21st century. For anyone interested in the history of one of America’s original mediums or the future of progressive music, the film is a must see.

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