5. 'Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns'
This 19-hour mini-series is not without its problems. It's co-produced by jazz traditionalist Wynton Marsalis, so anything exciting that happened after 1970 (free-jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, punk jazz, free improv) gets the short end of the drumstick. But no one tells America's story like Ken Burns, who treats our jazz heroes with the same loving hand he treated our Civil War vets, panning across archival photographs and letting people with first-hand experience tell the story. PBS' ability to use truckloads of actual jazz recordings is the real treat, so you get singer Jon Hendricks explaining Charlie Parker's phrasing while Charlie Parker plays; and tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves playing a 27-chorus solo at Newport Jazz Festival as photos show the audience in frenzy. An incomplete primer, but essential nonetheless.