The documentary concerned the history of jazz music in the United States, from its origins at the turn of the 20th century to the present day. It was narrated by Keith David, and featured interviews with present-day musicians and critics such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (also the artistic director and co-producer of Jazz) and critics Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch. Music critic and African American historian Gerald Early was also a consultant. Broadcaster and producer Phil Schaap was interviewed briefly. Jazz was the longest jazz documentary yet produced, and it was rich in musical examples and classic, rare and unseen footage.

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