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Ken Burns Jazz TV series

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by winston, Jan 9, 2001.

  1. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Has anybody been checking out the new Jazz series on PBS in the U.S.A? The first installment last night was great; it shed a lot of light on early jazz history and the role of race in American life.
  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    A little to pious and reverential for my taste. But that seems to be Ken Burns's signature style. Also, I'd like to hear some songs all the way through, rather than snippets overlayed with nonstop narration by Keith "Is it the franks or beans?" David.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Burns, Marsalis, Crouch, & this series, book, cds are catching a lot of flack over at http://www.jazzcorner.com/speakeasy
    The series is supposed to be about the "history" of Jazz up to the present; yet, very little is mentioned from the '60s to the present...a very, very fertile time in Jazz. Why? I dunno. Anyway, go to the forums page at Jazz Corner & enjoy all the arguments. Some interesting comments by some guys that have been around awhile. ;)

    [Edited by JimK on 01-09-2001 at 09:51 PM]
  4. So far I'd say good but not great. I agree with Christopher that there's too much talking and not enough music. It seems like Ken Burns is afraid to let the music speak for itself more. That being said it is still better than 99% of the stuff on TV.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Ken Burns mentioned that he neglected to go into detail about contemporary jazz because he was more interested in 1) laying the foundation and establishing the roots of jazz, and 2) he felt a critical analysis of such recent music was premature.

    I'm not sure if you buy that or not, but that's what I read in an article a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, I have just moved and have not connected my television yet, so I haven't caught it.

    He did mention that he hoped that a similar analysis of jazz from the '60s and forward would be done later.

    PS. Another question, there seems to be a lot of debate about this topic, Burns not talking about modern jazz. This is the first thing mentioned by every single person I've discussed this mini-series with. And, it seems like there is a website discussing it exclusively. At the least, let's look at the good points of the program.

    1) It's bringing attention to the history and roots of jazz.
    2) It's being produced and written by someone passionate about the music. (True, he's not a musician, but his interest is just as valid).
    3) It's helping sell CDs and books about jazz.
    4) More and more people are gaining interest in jazz.
  6. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Maybe I've just been tired lately, but I seem to fall asleep as I've been watching the show. I hope it gets a little more interesting once they stop playing that ragtime stuff.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Jim, went over to Jazz Corner and couldn't take it (and I thought some people bitched here;)).

    Some people dig it for what it is while others bemoan what's "missing" or what they would have put in instead of what's there. My opinion... it's a start. Maybe someone will take it upon themselves to take it to the next level.
  8. I think the first two nights have been pretty well done. A little too much comment and not enough music to be sure, but it was nice to be reminded of some names I had forgotten about over the years (Bichet, King Oliver...).
    I played trombone in a dixieland band many years ago, and had forgotten how much fun those tunes were.
    I've also heard a lot of people bitchin' about "too much Winton Marsallis". But, ya have to admit, the guy knows a LOT about the music. My only "Winton" gripe is that there are lots of recorded interviews with the older players(who have been covered so far). I would much rather hear Bix Beiderbeck talk about Louis Armstrong than hear W.M. talk about Louis Armstrong.
    I'm wondering if Ken will cover the migration of black players to Europe (specifically Paris), or will that be missing? A lot of players left the States and became fixtures overseas.
    But, I'll keep watching...
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I watched the first two nights, but missed the third. I'm hoping to see all the rest of the installments. The first installment fascinated me with the very early history of jazz way back to pre Civil War New Orleans.

    What I discovered that just reinforced earlier impressions is that I don't like and never have liked ragtime music and stride piano. Also, maybe it was the bad cold I was suffering through while watching, but the all brass bands made my head ache. All that brass music and banjo just grated on my nerves. I sat there longing for when Burns begins to cover the development and heyday of swing music and "big band" music.

    Marsalis impressed me with his knowledge of jazz history, but I can see the point jazz aficionados have about preferring to hear older musicians who knew Armstrong and other jazz pioneers give their points of view.

    Lastly, I never knew where the word jazz came from and actually never even gave it any thought. It was interesting to me that it evolved from jass, but was considered too risque for the times to use spelled that way.

    I'm hoping this series is as sucessful as Burns' other series have been and that it sparks a new interest in jazz in all its forms.

    Jason Oldsted
  10. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I could swear I posted a question here yesterday, I hope I didn't post it to the wrong thread!

    Anyway, since I haven't been watching it, can anyone tell me if Ken Burns made any mention of Buddy Bolden or Congo Square. Just curious.

  11. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    Yessirreebob! :)

  12. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    That's what bugs me about it. Too much USA social history that could be used for focus on the music. The American black experience and jazz are certainly interwoven but they aren't synonymous.

    But I guess his approach broadens the appeal, which is what PBS needs.
  13. I've been watching it. I cannot get over how, through the mess of Jim Crow, segregation, poverty and the like, those pioneers of jazz created the foundation which we stand on.

    I like how Burns tells the story of the life of a musician ... all night jam sessions, the comaradie, competition, ... things that the younger generation need to know about and appreciated.

    Also, there was an interview with the great Milt Hinton, who recently passed.
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I agree; those folks do set the standard. I even asked "What sorta vitamins" are they on 'cause some much energy is spent chirping about stuff they don't like.
    I have only caught some brief moments of Burns' documentary(in-between the commercials to FOX's "Temptation Island"); I know a lotta people are upset(even me to an extent)about the exclusion of everything post-1960 being left out. The documentary is supposed to be "until the present", right?
    The 60's Blue Note Era, Ornette Coleman, 'Trane's later period works, Cecil Taylor, Jazz-Rock(Fusion), etc are all omitted(so I've been told...that's how the book goes).

    The problem some people are having with Marsalis is this-
    ...anything NOT Swing/Bop-related isn't considered "Jazz" in Wynton's book. That's gonna leave a gaping hole in the "history 'til the present" that's he's supposed to be so up on.

  15. SugarLounge


    Jan 13, 2001
    I'd have to say that I'm enjoying the series so far. Yes, Ken Burns' style is a little pious, it's true... but it doesn't bother me personally. I don't mind all the talking because, after all, if I wanted to hear the music speaking for itself I'd turn off my TV and turn on my stereo! It's mildly unfortunate that Ken Burns himself doesn't know more about jazz.... but the project seems to have worked overall. My own personal beef is that by using Wynton Marsalis as an expert, you have an anti-Miles Davis bias built in, and Miles Davis is G*d as far as I'm concerned!

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