The greatest jazz documentary ever?

This is not a “clickbait” statement.

I think the case be made that this single documentary accomplishes more than any other jazz documentary I’ve seen- and I’ve seen more than a few.

#1 – It features an artist who we would all do well to understand better – Dizzy Gillespie.

When you talk about the things that really rocked the music post war – Bebop and Afro-Caribbean elements – Dizzy was a prime mover in both.

#2 – It covers Big Band *and* Bebop and shows the massive historical shift that took place after the war. Dizzy happened to be on both sides of that transition and was a super Big Band leader, something many overlook.

#3 – It captures what a major, world-changing revolution Bebop was when it appeared

#4 – It shows some of Dizzy’s work with Afro-Caribbean music. Remember, his “Manteca” with Chano Pozo is what opened the floodgates on that.

It’s not the WHOLE history of the music, but when you cover Dizzy well – which this film does beautifully – you cover a a big swath of the story.


To Bop or Not to Be: A Jazz Life, by Norwegian director Jan Horne. Recorded – 1990.

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube

Tradition is a Temple
Just a Closer Walk with Thee - Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong

Subscribe to Jazz on the Tube

Jazz on the Tube is the largest annotated and indexed online collection of jazz videos on earth - and it's free. 

We have THREE OPTIONS to help de-clutter your mail box, but still keep the great music coming.

You have Successfully Subscribed!