Reza Ackbaraly (left) and Quincy Jones are the founders of Qwest TV. (Photo: Courtesy Qwest.tv)
Qwest TV is the world’s first subscription video-on-demand platform dedicated to jazz and its neighboring genres. Founded by legendary producer and impresario Quincy Jones and French television producer Reza Ackbaraly, the website serves as an online library of jazz concert videos and feature documentaries that are, by and large, unavailable anywhere else on the web. In that capacity, it has been called the “Netflix of jazz.”
Like Netflix, Qwest TV offers plenty of binge-worthy material, including live concert recordings from festivals as prestigious as the Montreux Jazz Festival and Jazz à Vienne, masterclasses by today’s leading musicians and rare historical footage. In this “What to Watch” feature, we share our top recommendations for what Qwest TV has to offer each week. Some videos may require a Qwest TV subscription, and fortunately, memberships start for as low as $9.99 per month. Click here to start your subscription today.
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has ranked among the most exciting trumpeters of the past decade, having released a steady stream of phenomenal albums on the Blue Note label beginning with 2011’s When the Heart Emerges Glistening. His latest, 2018’s Origami Harvest, is in many ways his most adventurous. Musically, it’s a study in contrasts, mixing improvisation with composition and classical music with hip-hop. Thematically, it follows a similar track, with lyrics that assert optimism for his generation while at the same time reckoning with the long history of structural racism in America. As you can imagine, such rich material makes for stunning live performance, as this concert footage from the Jazz à Vienne festival certainly proves. Joining Akinmusire on stage are his abundantly skilled and endlessly versatile bandmates: Justin Brown on drums, Sam Harris on piano and Harish Raghavan on bass. Watch it here.
This concert, recorded at the Brussels Palais des Beaux Arts in March 1963, occurred just as Thelonious Monk was establishing a relationship with Columbia Records, which would see the release of some of his most ambitious albums, including Monk, Solo Monk and Straight, No Chaser. The set is a threshold performance, taking place at a time when the world was just catching on to Monk’s dissonant, irregular style and unconventional genius. He appears here with the bandmates who anchored the music on the Columbia releases Monk’s Dream and Criss Cross, two of Monk’s most enduring albums. Together, they travel through a set of tunes that reads like a hit parade: “Bye Ya,” “Criss Cross,” “Nutty” and “Epistrophe” among them. Monk is his characteristic self, complete with his wooly cap and quirky, unabashed dancing. Watch it here.
In this documentary on Al Jarreau — filmed in 2015, two years before the singer’s death — director Thierry Guedj combines rare film footage with commentary from Jarreau’s contemporaries to paint a portrait of one of the warmest, most engaging characters in jazz. Jarreau was a singer who seemed comfortable in any genre, from bossa nova to the blues, and his capacity for vocal improvisation was astounding. He worked with some of the best producers of our time, and the story of how he went from being a vocational therapist in San Francisco to one of the most popular jazz vocalists of the 20th century is an inspiration. It’s told here with the care and rigor it deserves. Watch it here.
For Herbie Hancock fans, it simply doesn’t get much better than this. It’s Herbie in his prime, in a setting in which he truly thrived, the trio. To make things better, he appears with two of his closest and most invigorating bandmates: Buster Williams on bass and Al Foster on drums. This concert has a bit of everything, from quiet, introspective piano ballads to uptempo funk and blistering straightahead jazz. Herbie Hancock has gone on to become jazz’s most popular figure, a global icon whose music has has attained the status of “timeless.” Here is a rare chance to catch him in an intimate setting, to watch his mind at work. Watch it here.
This post has been sponsored by Qwest TV.