Ken Burns' JAZZ starts Monday on PBS!


A reminder that Ken Burns' 10 part series begins Monday in most all of the USA. Burns' past documentaries have been "The Civil War" and "Baseball." They were very, very good. Enjoy! Charlie
danvetc
I will probably tape and watch at my leisure. I usually do not place much weight on critics, however all the reviews (that were not advertisements in disguise) in the media from those who got advanced viewing, have been fair to bad. I've read Ken Burns has left out about half of the nation's Jazz community completely, such as latin jazz and many other forms. I've read that people like Dave Brubeck and many many other legendary performers are not even mentioned once in 19 hours of programming. He proclaims Duke Ellington the greatest composer in history, period. Quite a statement for a documentary. I am sure there is some diagreement there. He makes the same type of declarations in other areas of performance. But I will still browse the tapes for the music parts and ignore the preaching from Mr. Burns. Just passing on what I have read and heard. Happy viewing.
Thanks Charlie! I would have missed it, were it not for your post.
Thanks everyone for the information. Even if the end product is not as good as we might hope for, at least jazz is getting SOME coverage on national television. Hopefully a few people not familiar with the art form will be stimulated to explore something new to them.
Should it be worthwhile and you want to watch it again, it is available on DVD with some extras not in the TV series. I found it in a 10 disc set at the "Store of Knowledge" (a PBS store) in San Diego. I didn't purchase yet but look forward to watching the series on TV. Bravo for the jazz coverage.
I can't wait for Jazz despite the "slim" coverage that Burns may give the subject. Be forwarned though, there will be a huge interest in Jazz music in general after the "civilians" see this documentary. Kind of like how they pretended to like the Dead after Garcia's sad and untimely death.
My local Sunday paper(Philadelphia Inquirer) really hyped the series. There are jazz articles in an entertainment section(including one on the series itself), and the included Iquirer magazine. And the series is highlighted in the included TV weekly. Looking at the lineup, the type of jazz I like(late 50s - late 60s) will not be shown this week. I will have to wait another week. But, I will still watch as much as I possibly can...
I'm really looking forward to this, but don't know when I'll have time to watch that much TV, even on time-delay. I'm sure there'll be much fascinating material, even though Sugarbrie's reservations sound realistic. Along these lines, note that all of jazz from 1961 to the present is covered in a single episode, the last! And, the series concludes with Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. A little self-congratulatory, perhaps?--considering that Warsalis was Burns' senior advisor on this project. So, perhaps Marsalis' conservative tastes and (may I say without being too disrespectful) smugness is reflected throughout the whole series. But, as I say, I look forward to a lot of fascinating material. However, it could be summer before I am able to view all the tapes.
I sat in the audience at Wolf Trap near Washington DC for the Marsalis/Lincoln Center group last summer. Great Concert??
Well if Marsalis is going to be the main commentator you can bet there will be more than a fair share devoted to Satchmo, his hero. Time Magazine had an article on the series and noted that several very important jazz figures were given scant coverage and Burns really didn't have too great an interest in jazz prior to conception of this project.
The series will be flawed, Marsalis is conceited--a fabulous technician of limited musicality--but it's better than nothing. See the dissing of the series by the great W. Balliet in the New Yorker.
What is evident in all of Ken Burns' documentaries that we may not pick up on in "The Civil War" because it is a important part; is that Burns tends to spend a lot of time giving the viewer a civil rights lecture and putting a civil rights bent on everything he covers. I learned very little about Thomas Jefferson the man, and his importance to our nation, and instead saw hours of a account his owning slaves, whether he had a baby with one of them, and how we should all feel about it.
Whatever negatives aside, as a diehard jazz junkie, I am really stoked for this series. I don't see any other programs so dedicated to the subject. And short of being enrolled in Sdcampbell's class, this is the best I can do. Whatever and whoever is featured, I will eat it up.
I am too Trelja I just hope that MY heros (Armstrong is certainly one of them) are given their due.
It's amazing to me that people are already panning the series without having seen it. I'm sure, as has been mentioned, that it will have some flaws, and I'm sure it will have a 'theme' that many will find disagreeable (what documentary doesn't). I'm also sure that it will be interesting and informative, especially for people with little or no jazz knowledge.
Having taken a course on the history of jazz while in university completing my bachelors, the documentary is pretty accurate so far. Even though Wynton is featured a little too much for my liking I just love the coverage jazz is getting.
Why is Wynton Marsalis the spokesperson for Jazz in the last 5 years. With all the great horn players in the last 50years,someone else should have stepped forward.
Don't expect any sort of surge in interest in jazz during or after this series. The first Ken Burns series, "The Civil War" caught our national attention because it was different and could hold the average American's interest for a few hours. That was 10 years ago. Now, all anyone cares about is the NFL playoffs and the T & A of Fox's "Temptation Island". In other words, don't be surprised if you're still just about the only person purusing the jazz section at Border's each time you go.
I started to watch this series, with much anticipation. I watched the first two episodes. I love Jazz, but the music took a back-seat to other issues racial, political etc. For me: end of series!
I agree, Tedmitz. What a shame. A music that can unite us seems to be used as a vehicle for a soapbox lecture that, IMHO, fuels the fires that divide us. Charlie
Really guys? Isn't it just a reflection of how things actually were? Jazz is really one manifestation of the segregation and cultural differences between the races at that time and before. I think it is presented historically in that sense and there really isn't any need to sweep it under the carpet and pretend that it didn't happen. Rather than divide us I see it more as a tool for better understanding. At least that is my perspective. Burns did the same with *Baseball* and I applaud him for it.
That's life, folks. I agree w TubeG. How can you dig into the origins of the sound of jazz without dealing with racism (among other factors)? That would be the same as trying to understand the blues without dealing with racism. And what makes looking into the history of a music interesting is learning about the people and personalities that made it go. How could you possibly do this without dealing with racism? To leave that out would result in less understanding, more superficiality. It might still be entertaining, of course, but I don't fault Burns's approach here.
Amen Tubegroover. So far, I am enjoying the series. Has taught me a lot. And, if anyone can make a better program, do it. I'll watch that too.
Hi, Snook2. Maybe someone else should have stepped forward, but Marsalis did step forward. The man has a vision and a mission. I have my gripes about him, and I share your concerns about lack of exposure for other deserving musicians, but I'm not gonna knock WM now. Overall I think he's been very good for jazz and also is doing a good job on the series. Though he's a very talented trumpeter, I'm not a big fan of his playing. However, when I saw him a few years ago doing some of his arrangements of Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton with a small contingent of his Lincoln Center musicians, I thought how terrific it was that someone was doing that. Plus, it sounded great.
I think my comments may have come across in a way in which they were not meant. I will not bore you with my pedigree as an activist for social and racial justice. I was stating my disappointment with the tone and emphasis on especially inflammatory remarks made by racists at that time. It is a little "over the top", for me. Both Will and Jayboard are correct, the music cannot be fully understood without appreciating the societal evils that surrounded it, (and still do,) but I was hoping for more emphasis on the music and its evolution. I have not stopped watching it. Charlie
I recently heard a NPR's report on this upcoming series, which made some critical observations. They started by stating that KB almost seems a parody of himself copying his schtick from prior specials. They also stated that he seems to get stuck on his favorites, giving them center stage and 30 minute biographies and others, whom NPR felt were just as important, 5-10 minute quickies. Overall NPR seemed to indicate a strong bias on KB's part. They also refered to the civil rights weaving of times and artists. Which I believe can hold true for alot of music. Again, they stated that there are around four basic Jazz giants that get center stage, I think they were Ellington, Parker, Armstrong and I forgot the other, that get the most of the press with the rest being placed in a secondary "by the way" status. I believe NPR's point was that KB lets his bias show, isn't objective enough and doesn't shed new ground. Anyway, I will watch and judge for myself.
What makes NPR think that documentaries are not works of art themselves? I would expect any author (and I'd probably elevate Burton to autuer) to lace his work with his own persona. I think the problem many may be having here is in confusing documentary film making with journalism, they are different media.
My problem, ultimately comes down to the Burn's formula not working with this particular subject. I found "Civil War" and "Baseball" far more interesting. Jazz, it seems to me, is far to spontaneous, exciting, and creative a subject to be well served by this sanitized format. I tried to like this series, I really did, but I believe historical/social context approach has taken center stage - at the expense of the music. I'm sure there'll be worthwhile segments ahead, but I won't be making a great effort to tune in. But, if it works for you, great.
Interesting? I have never thought of a documentary as being differant than journalism. I always viewed it as a longitudinal examiation of events. "An accurate reporting of history." Certainly,I never thought that during a documentary you could obscure the fact with subjective reporting and call it art. Anyway, I might catch some parts of it. We'll see.
All documents of events are framed within some context. Even so-called objective reporting is colored by the viewpoints of the author. This is just common sense and obvious to any one who has heard the difference in the way The New York Times and Wall Street Journal will cover the same events. People shade their observations of the world around them with their experiences. This isn't a bad thing; without experience we would have no ability to assign meaning to the various stimuli around us. A documentary film director has a responsibility to never falsify as that would become the realm of fiction. However, it is the perrogative of the director to report the events in whatever context he wishes. While the social climate of the United States may seem unimportant to you in it's effect on jazz, clearly Burton disagrees (having read their autobiographies I'd say that Mingus and Miles would side with Burton). We should not let this dismay us! Even in the subjective recount we can compile the truth (whatever that means). As an example, I submit Goya's The Fifth of May. This is a single snapshot in a long war. Moreover, it is clear that Goya has abandoned photo realism in favor of a hypereal presentation of the event. His sympathies are evident, even though he is documenting an event. The beauty is, however, that his presentation is more valuable for understanding the war in ways that a photograph could never be. In my life I have found that History books are filled with lies and revisions. Only in art can we begin to look for some underlying truth. That, by the way, is why I love music.
Great post Robba, I could not agree with you more. Very, very well stated observations.
For anyone that may be interested, the entire 10 DVD set can be purchased online for $114 shipped. Go to www.twec.com and you can acquire the entire 10 DVD set for $114 delivered. Use coupon code HLD22 @ checkout for a $37 savings over the standard retail street price. http://www.twec.com/VideoTITLE.asp?TitleID=V02000076518&Desc1=Jazz%3AA+Film+ By+Ken+Burns&AID=&SubAID=&CO=US&Mode=2
You'll need to view episode 9 to see the Brubeck coverage and the entire West Coast jazz scene. I don't expect any single documentary to be the be all end all of anything. It's merely entertainment, and if this documentary inspires one kid to pick up an instrument rather than a hypodermic needle, then I for one will say it was a resounding success! Enjoy!
Ellington IS one of the greatest composers that ever lived. If you do your history, and actually do some study you'll come to that realization too! This documentary will be a starting point for many. It merely scratches the surface, but ANYTHING that promotes the music is a good thing. If truth be told, jazz IS the only TRUE original art form, and has never gotten its due. Rock and roll came from jazz, but how many rockers actually know that, or care to actually educate themselves enough to find out? This documentary will be seen by many a young student, and however incorrect or condensed the information, will no doubt result in encouraging children to study music. That's a good thing, as the end result will be a continuance of the great legacy left before them!

In episode 9, the documentary suggests young people were swayed away from jazz in the early 60's by the popularity of the Beetles and rock and roll. An obvious sign of those times, but where are the Beetles now? Nothing against their contribution to rock and roll, but I've yet to observe a single person requesting transcriptions of any of their material. Jazz Lives...The fact is, jazz is the greatest music there is, but it doesn't get its due in America...not then, or now. Japanese and Europeans have greater respect and knowledge of this art form than the average American. Why does it take 40 years after the popularity of an art form to create a documentary about it? Heck, if Mozart or Beethoven were alive when jazz had evolved, they'd have played it too!

Uhhh Ohhh'...I better go now...some of these comments are getting my dander up. Go ahead, rip the documentary to shreds if you will, but if you really want to know about jazz, or music, it'll require more than a documentary to truly educate yourself. Enjoy!
TG - Thanks.
You can OSTERICHSIZE your head into the sand as much as you want to, but the facts are facts.

In condensed form they are:
Slavery produced slaves, these slaves produced the BLUES, the BLUES evolved into JAZZ. Rock and roll came from JAZZ.

No Jazz, no RHYTHM n' BLUES, no RHYTHM n' BLUES, no Presley, no Presley, rock n' roll takes another 5 or so years longer to get off of the ground. By now, some of you are scratching your heads and saying, "What, rock n' roll came from JAZZ? LOL...Sorry Charlie, it's true!

I hasten to ad, that if the predominant number of GREAT jazz players were WHITE players, the popularity of JAZZ would have been much greater then and now, and certainly receive a greater respect in the country of the people that created it. America has never given due credit to the contributions of Black Americans! Why should JAZZ be any different!?

Is it coincidence, prejudice, or acceptance that provided greater acceptance in Europe for JAZZ players at a time when popularity suffered here in America? It wasn't the economy that forced players overseas, it was prejudice.

Man, you can't tell me you don't want to be reminded of racial predjudice while watching this documentary because it makes you feel uncomfortable to be reminded about history. It's a documentary about the history of JAZZ! You can't create a documentary about JAZZ without talking about the foundation of JAZZ, and totally dismiss the prejudice and bigotry that existed at the time of the evolution of the music! It's not about feeling comfortable, it's about the TRUTH, and the TRUTH can be an very uncomfortable and painful thing sometimes! Enjoy!
I've encountered at least 2 erroneous comments regarding this series.

First, Brubeck IS represented in the series. Episode 9 in fact. Brubeck IS interviewed and provides comments about how TAKE FIVE evolved, etc.

Second, the series DOES NOT conclude with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Wynton's involvement in this series is irrelevent to me, but a lot of people have a serious issues with him. Their problem, not his obviously.

It might be wise to watch the series, and beware of false information being spread about it. Okay, gotta go watch episode 8...yes, 8...I bought the entire DVD set. Great transfer btw, in case it interests you.

Enjoy!
I'm a little late to the party here and in "you got to show me" thread but would agree with many of the "live and let live" posts. I think, however, Coltrane, that you're engaging in some serious historic revisionism when you state above that rock was born out of jazz. It's pretty clear that both rock and jazz were originally spawned by blues (although we could engage in endless chatter about how all these various forms of music have evolved). Whether it was Ellington or Armstrong, Presley or the Stones, they all started playing variations on themes originally presented by Handy, Johnson, Dixon and Waters. Personally, I am waiting for the Blues series on PBS, but not holding my breath. Jazz may not get the respect it truly deserves, but Blues gets even less.
"I'm a little late to the party here and in "you got to show me" thread but would agree with many of the "live and let live" posts." Yes, you are late, but that doesn't matter. But that doesn't explain your comment above. You've jumped on board the identical erroneous conclusion as the people you're purportedly agreeing with. No one ever suggested, least of all me, one shouldn't listen to any particular type of music because it is inferior to another. To the contrary. What I HAVE suggested, is a person who doesn't understand a certain type of music shouldn't be so closeminded to suggest that because they fail to understand it, the music has no merit!

"Whether it was Ellington or Armstrong, Presley or the Stones, they all started playing variations on themes originally presented by Handy, Johnson, Dixon and Waters."

Hardly! Explain to me where Presley, the Stones, or even Armstong played anything remotely close to placing one scale upon another? Ellington began doing this in the 30's long before it became in vogue in jazz in the 50's, and his doing so hardly related to a variation on a theme from Handy, Johnson, or anyone else that preceeded him. These new harmonies all came about by design, not as a variation upon a theme. Additionally, this is but one example that makes jazz different than more traditional structures of song form. There are COUNTLESS others. Most of which are way beyond variations of a theme. You're chosen word (variation), has oversimplified the complex harmonies of JAZZ.

I enjoy a healty debate as much as the next person, but it's important that information be accurate.

"Personally, I am waiting for the Blues series on PBS, but not holding my breath. Jazz may not get the respect it truly deserves, but Blues gets even less."

Finally, someone echoes what I've been saying since the beginning of this thread. Bottom line. Jazz doesn't get the respect that's due it, and I hasten to add, that is probably because folks choose not to investigate it enough to understand it! Those that do, understand that there's more happening between the lines than their ears first hip them to. Those that don't, close their minds, and their ears, and therefore miss out entirely. The appreciation of jazz, like any other art form, is enhanced with some rudimentary understanding of music. Time well spent if you ask me, as the analyzation of any musical form only serves to reap greater rewards upon the listener!

"I think, however, Coltrane, that you're engaging in some serious historic revisionism when you state above that rock was born out of jazz."

Historic revisionism. That's a fancy way of saying you've been hit over the head with the truth, and it's unsettling to you. Study the technical structure of rock in the 50's, 60's, which is a basic I to V to I to V chord, with an occasional IV chord tossed in, and Voila, you have nothing more than a basis for the Blues, which you obviously are aware is the basis for a lot of jazz. Pardon my getting a bit technical, but it's difficult to even address your comment about "historic revionism" without at least providing some example of the inaccuracy of your statement.

Enjoy!
Coltrane1
Coltrane: You have now become the mind reader you recently accused Dekay of being. My agreement with the "live and let live" posts refers to people listening to what they want because they enjoy it. I happen to listen to mainly blues and some jazz (as well as other types of music) because I ENJOY it-my enjoyment of the music has nothing to do with whether I think one musical form is inferior or superior to another or how much technical knowledge I have of the particular music form. I can assure you though that I do not enjoy all forms of the blues any more than I enjoy all forms of jazz. As you've deduced, I agree with you on many points; what I disagree with most is the way you're trying to make your point. I also disagree (if I'm reading you correctly) that jazz is the "superior" music form, but, then again, I don't have your technical understanding of the music. I don't have the technical knowledge, nor do I want to, to be in a position to state that one music form is superior to another; that is not what music is about for me. Your technical ramblings, however, leave me cold, much the way a technically proficient musician without an ability to inject emotion into the music leaves me. Re-read my post, particularly where I stated we could chatter endlessly about how the various musical forms have evolved. Your "placing one scale upon another" is in fact, part of that evolution, even if you proclaim it to be what makes jazz "superior". So be it if that's your take on it. Blues is, unequivocally, the foundation upon which both jazz and rock are built; all your final paragraph says to me is that rock is built on a slightly less sophisticated foundation. That is not an inaccuracy, simply a statement of fact. Here's to the music. by Hdm on 01-15-01
"Coltrane: You have now become the mind reader you recently accused Dekay of being. My agreement with the "live and let live" posts refers to people listening to what they want because they enjoy it." We are in total agreement here. I fail to understand why this is an issue with you, as it certainly is not a preoccupation of mine. But others HAVE chosen to suggest it was my intent to suggest what they should, or should not listen to. Hmm...not so. "I happen to listen to mainly blues and some jazz (as well as other types of music) because I ENJOY it-my enjoyment of the music has nothing to do with whether I think one musical form is inferior or superior to another. I can assure you though that I do not enjoy all forms of the blues any more than I enjoy all forms of jazz. As you've deduced, I agree with you on many points; what I disagree with most is the way you're trying to make your point." Hey, that's okay man. You don't have to like my style. I feel I've been direct, polite, and informative. But we can't please all the people all the time. So, if it comes down to shooting the messenger for some, so be it. "I also disagree (if I'm reading you correctly) that jazz is the "superior" music form," No, musical superiority could be categorized in the mind of the beholder, but never once have I said the art form of JAZZ is superior music. It's harmonies are more complex, but that doesn't make it superior. If one felt the need to categorize, superiority is reserved for the mind/ear of the listener. "but, then again, I don't have your technical understanding of the music." Hmmm...I have diliberately attempted to be as untechnical as possible. Apparently, I have at least failed you in that regard. "Your technical ramblings, however, leave me cold, much the way a technically proficient musician without an ability to inject emotion into the music leaves me." Hmmm...Again, my bad for having left you feeling so isolated. Come in out of the cold man. "Re-read my post, particularly where I stated we could chatter endlessly about how the various musical forms have evolved." Undoubtedly, we could talk. And only through the sharing of ideas is one able to learn, which for a final time was the SOLE reason I chose to initiate this thread. "Your "placing one scale upon another" is in fact, part of that evolution, even if you proclaim it to be what makes jazz "superior"." Misquote on your part. You're interpretation once again is getting you into difficulty. The "scale placement" phrase was but one example where I was attempting to share with you how the evolution of JAZZ was far more than variations upon a theme, as your comment suggested. Harmony has had a far greater impact on the evolution of JAZZ than variations on a theme. Again, this is but a single example...I could present countless others, but that would get far too technical, and you've already shown a distaste for "technical rambling." One wouldn't have to become a full fledged music student to learn more about the music they enjoy. "Blues is, unequivocally, the foundation upon which both jazz and rock are built;" Not exactly so. Blues is a part yes, but a small fraction of the pie...If you gave any study to harmony you'd come to that conclusion on your own. "all your final paragraph says to me is that rock is built on a slightly less sophisticated foundation." Thank you. If anything good came out of this thread, perhaps you, and someone else will have learned that rock is built upon a "far" less sophisticated foundation (harmony), and therefore jazz is far more than "jerky music." We've come full circle! And before I'm misquoted once again, no, that does NOT make JAZZ superior! But there's a heck of a lot more complexity going on than what's happening in rock n' roll. "Here's to the music." Yes, here's to the music Bro! Enjoy! Coltrane1
'Trane - While I share your love of Jazz, I disagree with the statement that Jazz spawned rock. Rock's direct originators (imho, of course) are R&B and Country (and ultimately blues). Jazz influenced early rock, but I don't think you can call it a progenitor anymore than you can call American Folk a progenitor. As far as 1-4-5 being 'proof' of rock's origins, any study of western music will reveal that this progression is MUCH older than Jelly Roll Or Louis. Anyway, just my thoughts.
"The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll" -Muddy Waters. Add a little ragtime and Appalachin folk music and you get Rockabilly and R&B. The Jazz connection is forced. "I got no kick against modern Jazz unless they try to play it to darned fast, and lose the beauty of the melody, till it sounds just like a symphony" -Chuck Berry
Watched the last episode. Hardly anything mentioned of the artists in the last 15 years. The show revealed the jazz progression to that point. Seems to me Marsalis wants jazz to degress. Were the Brecker Bros. ever mentioned?
Marsalis has a long standing reputation as a traditionalist. I find his music to be inspiring, but his views to be stuffy. On the other hand, we're all entitled to our opinions. BTW, I was fairly sure that Burns covering of contemporary jazz would be a little week because of his reliance on Marsalis as a source (that is *definitely* not to say that I thought he did a bad job or that the series wasn't worthwhile). robba_hmm@yahoo.com