Date:November 04, 2018

THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS on PBS

Catch the unforgettable film, which premiered at Harlem Int’l this past May and earned Hugo Berkeley this year’s Best Documentary Director Award!

The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors. But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, the documentary reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most. Leslie Odom, Jr., narrates.

Watch the film on KQED Passport

Appearances by:

  • Quincy Jones, Musician and Arranger
  • Charlie Persip, Drummer, 1965 Dizzy Gillespie Tour
  • Adam Clayton Powell, III, Son of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
  • Darius Brubeck, Jazz Musician
  • Bill Crow, Bass Player, Benny Goodman USSR Tour
  • Leslie Odom, Jr., film narrator
  • Hugo Berkeley, Peabody Award-winning director (Land Rush, A Normal Life)
  • Mick Csáky, producer (producer & director of Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll for American Masters)