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Ken Burns' Jazz (Full Screen)
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The story, sound, and soul of a nation come together in the most American of art forms: Jazz. Ken Burns, who riveted the nation with The Civil War and Baseball, celebrates the music's soaring achievements, from its origins in blues and ragtime through swing, bebop, and fusion. Six years in the making, this "soundbreaking" series blends 75 interviews, more than 500 pieces of music, 2,400 still photographs, and over 2,000 rare and archival film clips. The 10-part musical journey spotlights many of America's most original, creative--and tragic--figures, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Special features of the PBS DVD Gold include bonus performances and The Making of Jazz documentary.
Accompanied by a menagerie of products, Ken Burns's expansive 10-episode paean, Jazz, completes his trilogy on American culture, following The Civil War and Baseball. Spanning more than 19 hours, Jazz is, of course, about a lot more than what many have called America's classical music--especially in episodes 1 through 7. It's here that Burns unearths precious visual images of jazz musicians and hangs historical narratives around the music with convincing authority. Time can stand still as images float past to the sound of grainy vintage jazz, and the drama of a phonograph needle being placed on Louis Armstrong's celestial "West End Blues" is nearly sublime.
The film is also potent in arguing that the history of race in the 20th-century U.S. is at jazz's heart. But a few problems arise. First is Burns's reliance on Wynton Marsalis as his chief musical commentator. Marsalis might be charming and musically expert, but he's no historian. For the film to devote three of its episodes to the 1930s, one expects a bit more historical substance. Also, Jazz condenses the period of 1961 to the present into one episode, glossing over some of the music's giant steps. Burns has said repeatedly that he didn't know much about jazz when he began this project. So perhaps Jazz, for all its glory, would better be called Jazz: What I've Learned Since I Started Listening (And I Haven't Gotten Much Past 1961). For those who are already passionate about jazz, the film will stoke debate (and some derision, together with some reluctant praise). But for everyone else, it will amaze and entertain and kindle a flame for some of the greatest music ever dreamed. --Andrew BartlettSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Ken Burns' "Jazz" gave me what I've been wanting for years--a clear, evocative, comprehensive way into the genre as a whole.
Okay, it may not be the last word on the history of jazz. Yeah, some things really irritated me--like the slighting, mentioned by many, of Bill Evans, and the excessive excision of many white musicians to make the generally accurate point that jazz springs more from the experience of Black Americans. (Hint to Burns: You make your argument stronger by showing how apparently contrary data fit, not by leaving them out.) But over all, I found this a very helpful overview. And I enjoyed getting to know the biographies of, and the personal relations among, the players.
You won't likely get such an orientation from buying a few of the original CDs *instead* of the "Jazz" series. Few of us have the ears or training to discern what's taught in this series. You'd be highly unlikely to realize that, for instance, what was new with Be-Bop is improvising on the underlying chord changes rather than the melody. You'd really have to be perceptive and paying attention to notice what distinguishes Kansas City jazz from New Orleans jazz from New York jazz from West Coast jazz. And *no* album can place *itself* in history. For instance, you cannot learn from listening to an album featuring Coleman Hawkins-or Charlie Christian or Kenny Clarke--that *before* that album people played very differently.Read more ›
It's primary focus is on the giants:Armstrong, Ellington, as well as Billie Holiday, and though the series briefly mentions others, the documentary revolves around these three icons.
"Jazz",though great at describing the beginnings up into the be-bop era, skips about two decades worth of Jazz and ends abruptly with the unofficial Messiah of the show, Wynton Marsalis. Burns doesn't describe the fusion era of jazz (i.e. Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters)nor does he describe international forms of jazz such as an all important Latin Jazz. Instead, we mainly view the Jazz scene in New York from the early 1900's to mid 1900's. Brief anecdotes are given by artists who have played with other legendary musicians, scholars and musicologists who try to define the term jazz, and an almost superfluous amount of metaphors from Marsalis.
After watching the end of the series, I had felt that Burns represented Jazz in a way that it is almost exclusively an African-American art form and that the only great Jazz musicians are African-American. I feel that this could have created some sort of bias that contradicts the artform, because yes, there is life for Jazz beyond Harlem.
Despite some of these flaws, "Jazz" provides a great adventure into the past and it introduces mainstream audiences into an artform that is often overlooked.
Most recent customer reviews
A history that should be taught in schools.It is the history of North American music and defines clearly what we listen to and why.Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
Un monument de la musique de jazz. Je ne cesse de revoir cette anthologie historique qui nous amène aux quatre coins de ce monde fascinant. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Luigi
C'est une encyclopédie en soi! Merveilleux! Tout est bien ciselé et on découvre toutes l'immensité du lues ainsi que le Jazz bien sur! Le seul Hic! Read morePublished 16 months ago by Daniel Robitaille
People unfamiliar with the music called "jazz" need to take some time out and watch this well-produced treatment of the subject, which will correct a lot of misconceptions... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Duncan MacLeod
Ken Burns manages the best historical overview of the subject, and did so when many of the people involved were still alive. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Robert T. Boyter
Loved the Ken Burns Jazz Series. The historical films and photographs are outstanding. From a jazz standpoint, I didn't find the development of jazz in the last three discs to my... Read morePublished on Oct. 22 2013 by CHRIS L JOHNSTON
A very complete history of Jazz, although some may wish there was more about the "modern" era of Jazz. Read morePublished on Dec 28 2012 by Molly
My father who is going to hte cuban jass festival this christmas was very happy with his gift this year. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2012 by Cathy Tassie
I think the rap against relying on Marsalis for history is unjustified. I think Winton comments more on stylistic traits of musicians. Read morePublished on Sept. 23 2012 by Donald Wayne Bridge
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