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Jazz: A History of America's Music

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2001

    Delivers on its promise and then some.

    In spite of the fact that jazz musicians share with other artists personal addictions and demons that some of us may find displeasing, these human weaknesses should not be used to denigrate their creative accomplishment. And in spite of the fact that it took a Wynton Marsalis to remind many jazz 'aficionados' of the authentic jazz tradition and canon, animosity toward Wynton should not be directed toward the classic American art form that he helped rescue from much postmodern ephemera. This book sets the record straight, exhibiting judicious balance and selectivity throughout. Certainly, Burns could have included thousands of additional talented jazz musicians, many of them white, and he could have added a gallery of fusion all-stars from the past 20 years. Thankfully, he maintained focus and perspective, insuring that this book will retain its importance and relevance for years to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2001


    I was very-very pleased in what Ken Burns did for all with this very powerful documentary. His use of the many ancient black and white photographs, along with moving the camera along the still photographs gave a very pleasant appeal. Those slight camera movements made one feel as if you were looking at some actual movie footage. This performance was grade one, much like one would find in a class taken at its local University for X amount of dollars. I taped every episode for my family and I to review whenever we like. I will eventually purchase the entire documentary on DVD to get the total effect. I read the ¿The Autobiography of Miles Davis¿, by Quincy Troupe (who also was one of the many eloquent guest speakers in the documentary) when the book first hit the bookstores back in 1990. I lost that book, but purchased the paperback version two months ago. Ironically, Miles version of some of the events that took place during the periods between 1940 and 1990 are one in the same. It was also a plus to use Wynton Marsalis as the lead speaker in the documentary. He is a very eloquent speaker and knows the subject quite well. I was very proud of him and how much of a positive roll he presents for all African-Americans. Ken Burns never sugar coated the racial problems all African-American Jazz artists faced during any period nor did he lay claim that only the African-Americans had drug problems, which many history books try to make us believe. I was also glad he hardly mentioned the new smooth jazz (as what every one calls the new elevator music), which jams our airwaves throughout the day. I hate that type of music with a passion. Some critics criticized his decision to used Wynton and cover the period of 1960 to the present in one 2-hour episode. I think he shouldn¿t even have given this new type of music a mere mention. That is not JAZZ. I get the same feeling when I hear someone like Kenny G on the radio as I do when I hear 2-Pac, ¿Turn that BLANK off!¿ I highly recommend this book. It¿s big and full of the many photographs seen in the documentary. I will keep it in excellent condition for my kids to use for reference when term papers are due.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2000

    Sadly Ken Burns Seems to Be Omitting A Great Deal of What Jazz is NOW!

    Reading this interview and looking at the discography of the 5 CD set it seems that Mr. Burns is choosing like so many who claim to speak about and for Jazz, to forget about some of the great and very important music of the late 60s. Burns does do honor in pointing to the truly American qualities of Jazz and what it has and continues to give to our culture. But will he speak of Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray, Leroy Jenkins, the AACM in Chicago, Sam Rivers, Charles Gayle, etc., etc.? Will he really address what JAZZ is NOW? Both the commercial entity as well as the uncompromising artists scuffling to take it forward. It is very easy now that it is 50 years past to speak of the Bebop Musicians and their revolutionary conception and keep a large audience. And to quote Louis Armstrong's toe tapping mandate about music. But will he address some of the really beautiful and Yes challenging music of today that comes from the social turmoil that finally began to be addressed in the 60s? I will hold my judgement until I see the entire video work. But since I heard of this project I had strong reservations about how it would go. I am a jazzlover to the nth power and very happy anticipating 19 hours of this great music. But I rather not have it be presented as a half truth by someone who can't deal with it completely no matter who in the audience he loses. Billie Holliday is dead, Coleman Hawkins is dead. There music is alive through the recordings we have, but more importantly their spirits are alive in the musicians today developing upon the foundation they created - not simply mimicing what they were in technique. If it stops where it looks like it is going to stop Ken Burns' Jazz is going to reinforce the incestual regurgitation that this country's culture is so crazy about. While you watch this documentary see if they let you in on how these musicians lived and died. What was their physical and mental condition at the time of their death. Were they popular? Financially stable? Most passed in pathetic circumstances continually discriminated against. Later given legendary status while other living musicians are forgotten (this country is all about money). Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole were popular but their musicianship suffered enormously in return for adoration by white America. The artists of this music have had to endure a very vicious cycle that is in full swing today particularly in this country. The music they make is great because and inspite of this treatment. That is the real message of this music beyond what it shows of America. By dismissing what is really happening in the underground today Ken Burns' Jazz will only be another slap on the back about the 'Good Old Days', of 52nd Street, romantic New Orleans and Kansas city - when this country was extremely racist and murderous. I am maybe not as bitter as this sounds, I just want the truth to be discussed, both the 'accessible' AND the difficult. But when marketing gets involved, the truth is screwed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2000

    Nothing new here

    I didn't care for the book. Sure it's pretty and will get some folks interested in the music, but I found the treatment a bit heavy-handed. Talking about musicians as bold innovators and soul stylists and technical wizards is all a bit much for me. Many of the greatest jazz musicians were addicts and just generally not very nice people. Also, I really didn't see anything in that book that I haven't seen in other books. It almost looks as though Burns took a 'best of' approach to a lot of other jazz history books out there. Personally, I've had enough of the who, what, when, and where that you can read any old dusty history book. What I want is the how and why and this book certainly doesn't answer either question. One last note: any jazz history book that talks about Wynton Marsalis more often than it mentions J.J. Johnson is not a book I'm going to spend money on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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