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
, 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.
Accompanied by a menagerie of products, Ken Burns's expansive 10-episode paean, Jazz
, completes his trilogy on American culture, following The Civil War
. 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 Bartlett
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.