You might think a film festival is an unusual place for jazz fans – and you might be right – unless the festival in question is DOC NYC. The annual celebration of documentary film usually has several music selections and this year’s no exception. We’re going to pull out a few that jazz fans might want to keep an eye out for, including some unexpected picks. Even if you miss them here, the festival circuit offers a trial run for films and often result in wider release for ones that garner positive reactions.

The festival runs from November 8-15 2018 at several locations in Manhattan and there are several other films that will likely be of interest to documentary fans besides the ones highlighted here, but this post will focus on our primary beat: films of interest to Jazz fans.

It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story

It Must Schwing! takes a look at the creation and golden era of the iconic Blue Note record label through a biographical look at the co-founders, German immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff. The film follows the two friends from their first meeting at a concert in Berlin through their flight from Nazi Germany to their separate arrivals in New York and decision to build a record label that would do things differently and be focused on the artists and the music. It’s actually not the only Blue Note film out this year: Sophie Huber’s Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes had it’s debut in the spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. The two films actually complement each other, with some unavoidable overlap. Huber’s film attempts a broader overview and sacrifices some of the historical context for screen time devoted to the current Blue Note, whereas this film ends with the sale of the label in the early 70s and Wolff’s death. Schwing! features extensive archival footage of artists and some timely interviews with people recently deceased, such as Village Vanguard owner Lorraine Gordon.

It Must Schwing! screens at 4 PM on Sat. November 10 at The SVA Theatre on West 23rd St. Details and tickets are here and those wanting a deeper dive can check out our 10/28 radio show featuring an interview with director Eric Friedler, who will also be on hand for the DOC NYC screening.




Quincy takes a sweeping look at the life of Quincy Jones, whose immense legacy as a producer overshadows his work as a musician. Q’s daughter Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks followed him for three years to assemble the film along with interviews of some of the numerous artists whose careers he’s launched or shaped in his six decade career. Quincy is obviously primarily a first person narrative and may fall on the hagiographic end of the spectrum, but when the subject is someone like Jones, one can’t help but get a broad swath of music history along with the story.

While the film’s already streaming on Netflix, the DOC NYC screening offers the opportunity to see it on the big screen and the co-directors are scheduled to attend the screening for a post-screening talk. It’s screening at 8 PM on Thursday November 8 at the SVA Theater and at 10 PM on Saturday November 10 at Cinepolis Chelsea. Again, advance tickets are a must since screenings are likely to sell out.

There are, of course, a lot more films on offer at DOC NYC and likely something else that’ll interest you. Head on over to the DOC NYC website a full list of films.

Hank Williams is an associate producer for Suga’ in My Bowl on WBAI Radio and webmaster for the Suga’ and Behind the Mic sites. He is also a PhD candidate in English and Africana Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and teaches at Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York.