An incredble collection of jazz photos,
January 23, 2001 6:56 AM   Subscribe

An incredble collection of jazz photos, for those hooked on the PBS series.
posted by jpoulos (14 comments total)
Can we bitch about the series here?
posted by rodii at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2001

I haven't seen the series at all yet, but I've heard it's not so good. Is it any good?
posted by Doug at 8:01 AM on January 23, 2001

I've heard the complaints, but I don't agree. I'm a little nervous that we're at part 7 and we've just hit WWII, and I would have liked to see a little more on Bessie Smith, but overall I think he's handled everything very well. People are complaining about the pacing, saying it's too slow, but I disagree. I'm pretty much enthralled. I'm wising it was 30 parts instead of 10.
posted by jpoulos at 8:34 AM on January 23, 2001 [1 favorite]

Suuuuuucks. It's amazing how Ken Burns, who has succeeded in the past with distinctly American issues he was actually passionate about [Baseball and the Civil War], would admit that he really doesn't know much about jazz yet proceed with producing this lackluster series.
posted by Karl at 9:53 AM on January 23, 2001

i'm starting to agree that it could have been a lot more interesting if it had been more inclusive of tangential developments. plus, more music please.
posted by sudama at 10:10 AM on January 23, 2001

I'm sure it could be better (after all, everyone tells me so), but I really know so little about the early history of jazz I'm finding it informative and enjoyable nonetheless.
posted by kindall at 11:33 AM on January 23, 2001

Is the series perfect? No. Is it worth watching? I think so. I'm watching it mainly for the photos and films that are shown. Sure, if someone picks up a jazz history book then they could learn a lot more about jazz in a lot less time. And if someone picks up some great jazz CDs, then they could hear a lot more music. For the most part the series has a jr. high textbook feel to it, but I can overlook this as long as they keep showing interesting photos.
posted by gluechunk at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2001

Ken Burns's style is pretty decent, and although I haven't watched the last couple of episodes, the first few were pretty good, but I'm afraid the biggest problem with the series is Ken's total dependence on Wynton Marsalis as jazz historian. Wynton doesn't think very highly of recent jazz developments past Miles's and Coltrane's early work. More offensively, he doesn't think much of white jazz musicians, believing that you have to be black to really get jazz.
posted by daveadams at 12:07 PM on January 23, 2001

I haven't heard that it's BAD, so much as jazz purists are really annoyed at the tone and emphasis, IOW, what daveadams said. It's said to be a history of jazz for the person who doesn't know a single thing about jazz.
posted by dhartung at 1:24 PM on January 23, 2001

I don't agree, Dave. So far in the series, he's had very kind words for Beiderbecke, Goodman and Shaw. And considering that the series has so far only covered up to the '40s, you can't criticize him (yet) for being too "old school". (Although you may have the VHS or DVD and have seen the last episodes.) I've been critical of Marsalis for years, but I think that he's perfectly suited for a project like this. His ability to play what he's talking about has provided a really unique context.
posted by jpoulos at 1:33 PM on January 23, 2001

Am I the only one who has seen all episodes except #10? Our local PBS station appears to have gotten the scoop over the rest of the U.S.

In any case, there is only one episode left (for me) and it is supposed to cover the last forty years, with heretofore nary a mention of Cuban or Brazilian influences, nor any mention to come (if the episode previews give any indication).

And yes dhartung, it is a series for those who know very little about jazz history.
posted by Avogadro at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2001

I mean, does appear to be a series for those who know little about jazz history. (But then again, Baseball wasn't that deep of a series either. For entities that have been around for over 100 years, there's only so much detail you can squeeze into 9 or 10 episodes).

didn't mean to sound snooty...
posted by Avogadro at 2:28 PM on January 23, 2001

er, I meant to ask this in my above post, but does anyone know if there's a full version of "Ken Burns'" Conan online? That is one of the greatest pieces from late night TV.
posted by gluechunk at 2:49 PM on January 23, 2001

He is OK with Bix, but Bix is kind of a special case. With Godman and Shaw, the emphasis seems to be (a) they're Jewish, (b) they practiced really really hard, and (c) they got into jazz to get rich and famous. With Armstrong, (a) he's black, (b) he doesn't have to practice cause he's naturally musical, (c) he got into jazz because, well, it's just natural, that's all. A glaring colection of stereotypes.

It's true, Latin influences are nowhere to be found. Even when they're playing "Caravan"--they could at least mention Juan Tizol there. And it's true, the whole last 40 years is pretty much a blur. Mingus gets a couple minutes, Coltrane a couple, Rollins almost none, Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp get passing mentions or curt dismissals.

It's not bad. But it buys into the whole argument by Marsalis and Stanley Crouch about the "nature" of jazz as the blues-based expression of the genius of black folk. Clearly that argument has some validity, but Marsalis has put it to some pretty deplorable uses. I'm annoyed that Burns has put himself in Marsalis' hands the way he has.

And there's not enough music.
posted by rodii at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2001 [1 favorite]

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