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Burns Spurs Jazz Record Sales

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Boplicity, Feb 5, 2001.

  1. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Just saw this on BET on Jazz: The Jazz Channel. It is this weeks Billboard list of top ten jazz sellers. I went to the Billboard site and couldn't find a jazz chart, so I may not have the names exactly right, but here is what BET lists as this week's top jazz records.

    10. John Coltrane: The Definitive Jazz Series.
    9. Benny Goodman: The Definitive Jazz Series
    8. Billy Holiday: The Definitive Jazz Series
    7. Duke Ellington: The Definitive Jazz Series

    4. Louis Armstrong: The Definitive Jazz Series
    3. Various Artists: The Definitive Jazz series (box set)
    2. Best of Ken Burns Jazz
    1. Pure Jazz (Not a Ken Burns jazz album.

    I did not "get" number five and six, but one of them was Diane Krall who has been on the list for months.

    Anyway, looks like the Ken Burns PBS series on jazz has stimulated a tremendous interest in the genre because none of the Ken Burns' records were even on the list in December or early January. Oh, BTW, all the "Definitive Series" are Ken Burns collections.

    jason oldsted
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    So Ken Burns has done a wonderful thing for the jazz community. Despite the criticisms of the program, and there are many, at least jazz has something more to criticize now. This genre does not have the exposure it deserves. As with any exposure, there will be positives and negatives. It is a definite positive to encourage people to listen to Coltrane, Monk, Duke, and Bird. I only hope now that someone else picks up on this, and continues to show the community this art, so that it doesn't go the way of the recent 3-week swing fad.
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Good point. I wondered about that too. What I mean to say is...without continuing support for jazz from Burns or others, such as a weekly jazz program to help listeners understand and interpret what they are hearing when they buy all these jazz records, some may listen only a few times and be disappointed. I'm referring here to folks who viewed the Ken Burns jazz series because they liked his Civil War series, but are not musicians per se. These folks may require more support from a weekly or bi-weekly series to increase their enjoyment of the CDS they bought.

    As a side note, looks like Burns might be getting rich off the merchandise he is selling as a result of his series. Makes one wonder if he didn't push the jazz musicians on his show who might be less likely to sell lots of records or whose beneficiaries were not co-operative. Just a thought. Of course, he probably has been above reproach in his presentation. At least he presented something. Nobody else has done so on such a large scale in recent memory.

    jason oldsted
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...exactamundo; Burns *IS* reaping the rewards, not the Jazz guys. Certainly not the living Jazz guys. Recall that very, very little was said about the guys doin' it now...sure, McBride, Regina Carter, & James Carter were touched upon; are they it &/or representative of what's being played out there?
    Too, I also see it's The Burns' Jazz cds that are selling, not, for example, GIANT STEPS, MONEY JUNGLE, KIND OF BLUE, etc.

    NO MENTION of JJ Johnson in KBJ...Johnson just passed away this week(RIP).
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think this is right, that it's doing nothing for current Jazz musicians trying to make a living. Nostalgia seems to be big business everywhere nowadays and makes money for those who are conservative and backward-looking like Wynton Marsalis, but those who try to make challenging and original music are going to just find it even harder, in a market swamped with re-issues.

    As has been said many times - the reason the "greats" mentioned in the programmes were regarded as such is because they were true originals who broke the rules. But the people doing this today will find it harder because of this wave of nostalgia, not easier.

    The point is that Ellington etc. don't need the help and the very people who could do with the exposure to help them carry on making music were ignored. People buying these records will just line the pockets of industry execs and people like Burns - none of it will be seen by artists struggling to make their way in Jazz today.

    [Edited by Bruce Lindfield on 02-06-2001 at 09:38 AM]
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    But the foundation still has to start somewhere. It's a good point to mention that Burns is reaping the rewards, but what the jazz community must do, and that means all of us too, is continue to get the music to people. So if KBJ has taught us anything, it's that people will respond to good jazz when it's shown to them. They don't know about the contemporary jazz players, because they don't have exposure. So we need to figure out what to do to get them that exposure.

    I do think it's a terrible shame that what is selling is compilation CDs though. To me, albums like GIANT STEPS and KIND OF BLUE are album experiences. I don't listen to Freddie Freeloader and call it a day, I listen to the whole album, as it should be.

    Also, I think there is a point that often the greatest musicians are not recognized until there time, or they, have passed. It's unfotunate, but maybe the modern jazz players won't be noticed until we can longer appreciate them live.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Or maybe it's just a case that record companies love "re-issues" as they are almost pure profit for them. No new recording costs, no new fees to musicians; use some old photos that are probably also out of copyright and your production cost are absolute minimum - no risk! And if the artists concerned are dead, even better - no royalties! :(

    Why bother going out and taking the risk of finding new talent?
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Good point. There needs to be some way to get the new players the notariety they deserve. How many reissues of KIND OF BLUE have there been since that album was released? Just recently we saw Jaco's self-titled CD "remastered."

    I'm not sure about these compilation albums. On the one hand, it doesn't take away from the experience, and it is only presenting a small portion of that artist's work. On the other hand, it's producing some interest in jazz.

    Could this popularity mean more gigs for jazz groups? Or is it going to result in a couple of compilation CDs picked up at Starbucks while in line for your triple-decaf-vente-non-fat-vanilla-hazelnut-no-whip-latte, that contains TAKE THE A TRAIN and GIANT STEPS?
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...good point, Jazzbo; I'm gonna definitely listen to both A LOVE SUPREME and THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME uninterrupted this week. As they should be... ;)

    I have bought KOB 4xs(vinyl, cd, re-mastered, & the Miles/Coltrane box). And I just picked up a pretty hip book about the making of KOB written by Ashley Kahn. Barnes & Noble will get it to you in 2-3 days...
  10. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Not to even mention that those groups, at their best, will only be recognized for IT DON'T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN'T GOT THAT SWING) and HELLO DOLLY. To cater to the market, new bands can't evolve. The contemporary sociological response to a growing popularity in a certain music genre is to saturate the market with it, not to let it breathe, and evolve. Like the music from Nawlins lived and evolved out into Chicago, and moved to KC, and moved across the country so that it was always getting a fresh perspective.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Ed - maybe it's more cynical - like I was saying, these guys are still alive and playing - maybe he would have had to pay Herbie, Wayne or Chick a fee or royalties!!
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Royalties to living players...exactly. Plus their record company contracts might prohibit collaborations with Burns even though the artist, the record company and Burns might all benefit from the publicity.

    The only justification I can think of for Burns concentrating on the past of jazz and not the current scene or even recent past, is that Burns sees himself as a historian and not so much of a student of the present.

    As for not paying royalties to deceased musicians, I wonder...don't their estates get anything? I know, for example, that the heirs of Elvis Presley, for example, have jealously guarded anything to do with his name, likeness and music. Also the guardians of estates of such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and, oh, yes, John Lennon have been very aggressive in deciding who can use their "property" and how it is to be used.

    I don't know, though, if there is a statute of limitations. Does the work of Billy Holiday now belong to the public domain and can it be used without permission? If so, I think it at least behooves Burns to put a LARGE portion of the income from the sales of his jazz compilations into a foundation to further the appreciation of jazz ( in all its forms) and to provide grants to talented young musicians who wish to pursue jazz studies. That would be a kind of payback to the deceased musicians whose work is enriching his coffers.

    jason oldsted
  13. halfnote


    Feb 1, 2001
    Ken Burns series was wonderful viewing for me. I do understand some of the significant things and people were left out (I believe this is because those people were hard to fit into his through-line of race in America, which isn't necessarily a bad thing). However, I looked forward to each episode, and I have been out to see live jazz twice since I started watching the series. (Only went twice in my life before). Before the series my closest to listening to jazz musicians was Medeski, Martin, and Wood. My latest cd purchases this month have been:

    Kind of Blue
    Giant Steps
    A Love Supreme
    Kind of Blue
    Take Five

    I am really soaking it up! I would also love to get some recommendations for some other stuff! I would argue that there has been a lot of talk about jazz around "the watercooler" because of the show. 9-5er's have a new respect for Jazz..I witnessed it today at lunch, the conversation of the suits and ties at the next table centered around the series. I would think that jazz musicians will witness the clubs getting fuller (whether or not that audience will be appropriately attentive is another matter.) Has not this been the case?

    halfnote (jazz fan and hopefully someday jazz bassist)
  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Halfnote, if you have cable TV or a satellite, check out BET on Jazz: The Jazz Channel. This is a cable channel that is run by BET, only the music is jazz all day. It has all styles of jazz including Latin jazz, "smooth jazz" and every other permutation you can think of, plus Wednesadys dedicate large blocks of time to blues. There are also interesting interviews with the musicians, themselves and each month a musician or band is featured, getting plenty of air time. I've learned alot about jazz, both historical and current, acoustic and electric, from this channel.

    jason oldsted
  15. halfnote


    Feb 1, 2001
    I have cable and I get BET but not a "Jazz Channel". Is "Jazz Channel" a show or its own real channel? My buddy just came by my office and dropped of a Charles Mingus CD! It is AH UM. I am going to put it in now...see I told ya!

  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    1/2 note-

    ...if you're really interested in beefing up your collection ASAP, think about some of the re-issued/re-mastered box sets that are currently available.
    So, rather than buying, say, all the cds with Miles' 1st "great" 5-tet...spring for the MILES DAVIS & JOHN COLTRANE box. Rather than buying each individual cd of Miles' 2nd "great" 5-tet, spring for MILES DAVIS QUINTET 1965-'68.
    Other sets worth looking into-
    BEAUTY IS A RARE THING-Ornette Coleman

    ...there's also a 3-cd set with Mingus' AH UM, DYNASTY, & ALTERNATE TAKES. ColumbiaHouse(& maybe BMG)members can pick this up for $19. Hancock's box goes for $29; the rest can be had for roughly 60% off when bought "on sale"(about $50 for the Miles' boxes, the Ornette box, & Coltrane boxes).

    There's also some killer, rare sets available from http://www.mosaicrecords.com

    Personally, I drooling for a Wayne Shorter Blue Note set & a Bobby Hutcherson Blue Note set...

  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    when i first saw this thread, i thought it was about basketball. :rolleyes:

  18. muggsy


    Dec 14, 2000
    Alexandria, VA
    I agree with Halfnote. I enjoyed the Burns series, and I feel like I learned quite a bit from watching. I understand the criticisms from "serious" jazz fans and musicians, but a mammoth project like this could not possibly be all things to all people. In each of his major series, Burns has provided an overview of his subject while focusing on sea-change events and placing them in historical perspective. That's what he does, and he's very good at it. That's also, in my opinion, why he glossed over the last 30-40 years, because that history is still being written and historians (like Burns) prefer to wait a few decades before drawing conclusions about the historical significance of anything.

    Those who already knew much of what he covered were understandably disappointed, but I don't think they were his target audience. I, on the other hand, have purchased 8 or 10 jazz CDs since the series ended (not his compilations, by the way). I've also revisited several others I already owned. It's easy to quibble about a misplaced focus on this or that, but I applaud the effort (and the result).
  19. halfnote


    Feb 1, 2001
    It isn't? We aren't talking about ball? :) I got to tell you that I have been listening to this Charles Mingus CD for the last 7 hours straight...I don't even know what to say about it.

    [Edited by halfnote on 02-08-2001 at 09:43 PM]
  20. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I didn't watch Burns' BASEBALL series; I wonder, did he cut off "the history of baseball" at 1960 or so? IF he did, that would be considered absurd. As far a Jazz' history, Hell, 1960 was forty years ago!
    Bottom line: Marsalis is no fan of the '60s New Thing/Free movement(including some fine European Avant Gardists)nor '70s Fusion nor anything being played by today's "out cats". What's funny(from what I seen, heard, & read)is that the Burns/Marsalis/Murray attempt at dissing the Free guys backfired...people got to SEE Coltrane & Taylor & that piqued some interest.

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