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Ken Burns Jazz


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Product Details

  • Actors: Keith David, Charles J. Correll, Freeman F. Gosden, Edward R. Murrow, Richard Nixon
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of tapes: 10
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Warner
  • VHS Release Date: Nov. 1 2001
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000050HEQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,376 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)

Product Description

Product Description

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.

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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 Bartlett --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bob Fancher on Feb. 11 2003
Format: DVD
Jazz is a relatively recent interest for me--maybe half a dozen years. I'd learned about scattered fragments of jazz, but never developed a systematic understanding, a clear orientation--though a couple of times I'd tried: I bought Gary Giddons' "Visions of Jazz," for instance, which is very good but just didn't capture my imagination.
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18 2004
Format: DVD
This series played a major role in turning me into a ardent lover of jazz: the sights and sounds you'll encounter are truly memorable and moving, whetting your appetite for more. But as so many other jazz fans have noted, vast swathes of the music (like the last four decades) are brazenly and inexcusably ignored in favor of portraying the ultra-narrow, retrograde Wynton Marsalis/Stanley Crouch version of jazz history--a perspective most jazz fans and musicians vehemently disagree with. If you'd like more balanced, less biased, more insightful histories of jazz, check out the books Jazz 101 by John F. Szwed and The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia, for starters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6 2004
Format: DVD
It's surprizing how vociferously some "snobs" condemn "Jazz" simply because it's not as comprehensive as they seem to think it should be. From reading these reviews you would think Ken Burns is a half-step above a holocaust-denier for not including Roland Kirk or Eric Dolphy. "Jazz" is a wonderful, inspiring and, yes, traditional look at the art form. Newcomers shouldn't be dissuaded because it's not as complete as it should be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7 2001
Format: DVD
I'm not a Jazz historian, but I bought this DVD because I figured I would learn alot about the music. Ken Burns does a thorough job covering the history of Jazz all the way up until 1960. But in the case of this documentary, the cramming of 40 years of Jazz into one episode just didn't work, Miles Davis and his fusion movement were pretty much limited to a couple minutes and then Davis just disappeared for the rest of the movie, in fact the last 25 years of Jazz got about 15 minutes and Burns spent part of that time covering some high school band practicing for a concert. I liked the extensive time spent on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, but it seemed like several artists got left behind on the cutting room floor. Icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman just disappeared and the great Thelonius Monk got about five minutes. Bottom line, Burns botched the end of Jazz with the final episode, after all the hours I sat through the film, I was left with a bitter taste at the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dylan on March 21 2001
Format: DVD
Ken Burns' epic "Jazz" series, though a great introduction to the music of Jazz, is not ideal for completists looking to see a broad scope of Jazz.
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.
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