War: A Ken Burns Film

The War: A Ken Burns Film


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Focusing on the lives of people in four small towns during World War II, Ken Burns's seven-hour epic The War brings the reality of war home on a personal, intensely human level in way no other filmmaker has done since the multiple-Oscar-winning 1946 classic, The Best Years of Our Lives. This is not war romanticized; it's war up close, brutal, bloody, and


Focusing on the lives of people in four small towns during World War II, Ken Burns's seven-hour epic The War brings the reality of war home on a personal, intensely human level in way no other filmmaker has done since the multiple-Oscar-winning 1946 classic, The Best Years of Our Lives. This is not war romanticized; it's war up close, brutal, bloody, and horrific, and the memories of how it was remain searing and vivid to the veterans and their loved ones. The music Burns has chosen for The War thus reflects both the hopes and the melancholy of those years, sometimes all in the course of one song, as on Norah Jones's somber piano-and-vocal reading of the film's theme song "American Anthem." Comparable in effect to the poignant "Ashokan Farewell" theme of Burns's Civil War project, it is repeated at the end of the soundtrack as a haunting instrumental for piano and cello by Bill Charlap and Amanda Forsyth, respectively, who render it with touching sensitivity to the nuanced tenor of Jones's vocal and to the series' overall mood. The War soundtrack album is a concise, 17-song sampler of the music heard over the course of seven hours of film, including original performances by contemporary artists such as Jones, Forsyth, and Charlap, classical violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, and Wynton Marsalis, who contributed some original compositions, including the introspective piano-and-cello instrumental "America My Home" (featuring Forsyth and Charlap in another star turn). These recordings complement the indelible hits from the war years, which here include Kay Starr's buoyant "If I Could Be with You," the King Cole Trio's smooth workout on a V-disc recording of "If You Can't Smile and Say Yes," and tracks from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman. Bolstering the effect of all this timeless pop are classical performances by Yo-Yo Ma and by Leonard Slatkin conducting the London Philharmonic in William Walton's brooding "The Death of Falstaff." [Also available: the four-CD box set of all War-related discs, including the soundtrack.]

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
The War, directed by Ken Burns, was a seven-part documentary series broadcast on PBS television in 2007, focusing on the experiences of American soldiers in World War II. Much popular music of the period was heard on the soundtrack, as was some music specifically composed and recorded for use in the film. This four-CD set, with the full title The War: A Ken Burns Film: Deluxe Edition: Soundtrack and Music from the Second World War, devotes one disc each to a certain thematic strain. Disc one -- the only one in this package that is also available separately, as a stand-alone release -- focuses on music actually heard on the soundtrack, mixing compositions/performances by Wynton Marsalis; vintage recordings from the time by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Kay Starr; and some other material, including one track, "American Anthem," recorded by Norah Jones on piano and vocal specifically for the series (and previously unreleased prior to its appearance here). Disc two, "Sentimental Journey: Hits from the Second World War," has some of the smoother and more romantic jazz-pop hits of the era by the likes of Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Harry James, and Tommy Dorsey. Disc three, "I'm Beginning to See the Light: Dance Hits from the Second World War," has swing jazz that repeats some names from earlier in the box (Goodman, Basie, Miller, Artie Shaw) and adds selections from some others like Gene Krupa and Jimmie Lunceford, and is the CD most likely to be enjoyed by general music fans. The fourth and final disc, "Songs Without Words: Classical Music from The War," has ten classical pieces recorded between 1963 and 2006 of a subdued and mournful nature, two of which noted cellist Yo-Yo Ma plays on, and one (Aaron Copland's "Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano") on which Benny Goodman plays clarinet. This is primarily recommended to those viewers deeply impressed by the series, rather than the general music listener, who might find the range of styles -- primarily mixing jazz and classical sides, but also with some non-jazz songs from then and now -- too wide to sustain interest. An illustrated booklet from Ken Burns explains the conception and intention of the documentary series, with a smaller one explaining the reasoning behind the music selected for the soundtrack.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Aaron Copland   Conductor
Sam Bush   Mandolin
Edgar Meyer   Bass
Bing Crosby   Vocals
Kay Starr   Vocals
Paul   Guitar
Buster Bailey   Clarinet
Count Basie   Piano,Leader
Buck Clayton   Trumpet
Bill Coleman   Trumpet
Harry Edison   Trumpet
Benny Goodman   Clarinet
Freddie Green   Guitar
Johnny Hodges   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Jo Jones   Drums
John Kirby   Bass
Mel Powell   Piano
Max Roach   Drums
Tab Smith   Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Buddy Tate   Tenor Saxophone
Cootie Williams   Trumpet
Lou McGarity   Trombone
Oscar Moore   Guitar
Yo-Yo Ma   Cello,Soloist
Coleman Hawkins   Tenor Saxophone
Wellman Braud   Bass
Sonny Greer   Drums
Walter Page   Bass
Joshua Bell   Violin
Leonard Slatkin   Conductor
Barney Bigard   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Don Byas   Tenor Saxophone
Harry Carney   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Baritone Saxophone
Bill Charlap   Piano
Nat King Cole   Piano,Vocals
Ralph Collier   Drums
Ed Cuffee   Trombone
Victor Goines   Saxophone
Fred Guy   Guitar
Killian   Trumpet
Delfeayo Marsalis   Trumpet
Mike Marshall   Guitar
Tommy Morgan   Electric Guitar
Eli Robinson   Trombone
Juan Tizol   Valve Trombone
Jack Washington   Baritone Saxophone
Sid Weiss   Bass
Arthur Whetsol   Trumpet
Edward Aaron   Cello
Todd Reynolds   Violin
Mark OConner   Violin
Ed Lewis   Trumpet
Otto Hardwick   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Bass Saxophone
Laura Newell   Harp
Kayhan Kalhor   Kamanche
Abba Bogin   Piano
Colin Jacobsen   Violin
Carlos Henríquez   Bass
Leo Suzuki   Viola
Norah Jones   Piano,Vocals
Amanda Forsyth   Cello
Siamak Aghaei   Santur
Nick Cords   Viola
Sandeep Das   Tabla
Doug Wamble   Guitar
Ali Muhammed Jackson   Drums
Lawrence D. Brown   Trombone
Chief Justice Earl Warren   Alto Saxophone
Robert Bruce Scott   Trombone
Kalle Randalu   Piano
Siamak Jahangiry   Ney

Technical Credits

Aaron Copland   Composer
William Walton   Composer
Yusuf (Cat Stevens)   Composer
Steven Berkowitz   Producer,Audio Production
Ken Burns   Producer,Liner Notes,Audio Production
Wynton Marsalis   Arranger,Composer
Delfeayo Marsalis   Producer,Audio Production
J.P. Johnson   Composer
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
Tom Schick   Engineer
Lynn Novick   Producer,Liner Notes,Audio Production
Duncan Allardyce   Producer,Audio Production
Lee Alexander   Producer,Audio Production
Sarah Botstein   Producer,Audio Production
James P. Nichols   Engineer

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