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Jazz - A Film By Ken Burns [DVD] [2000]

Louis Armstrong , Duke Ellington , Ken Burns    Exempt   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and more
  • Directors: Ken Burns
  • Format: Box set, PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Simply Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 2 Nov 2009
  • Run Time: 745 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002VPXZ0E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,902 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



The BBC, sceptical about the British appetite for extended documentary programmes, edited Ken Burns' epic 17-hour history Jazz back to around 12 hours. That's what's presented in this box set of the series, and while the flow of the original is preserved, so are its idiosyncrasies. The film dwells at length on early jazz, particularly on its origins in New Orleans, and there's a good deal of absorbing history here. On the other hand, in suggesting that the important work of jazz was done by 1975, Burns gives us cause to question how much of his earlier research is awry too. There isn't much here to reflect the brimming vitality of post-1960s jazz, and many listeners and musicians have been enraged by Burns' neglect of such pivotal figures as Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker--all players whose work responds vigorously to the question that Burns thinks nobody can answer: "Where are the modern equivalents of Armstrong, Ellington, Parker and Coltrane?"

Armstrong and Ellington are the touchstones of Burns' film, providing the narrative thread around which the stories of other major figures turn, among them Bechet, Basie, Goodman, Parker, Miles Davis and Coltrane. Burns also finds populist mileage in the politicisation of jazz, making dramatic capital out of racial divides that most jazz players, black and white, have ignored. The fact is that almost all jazz players, regardless of race, have felt like outsiders. Despite such distractions, Jazz is the longest jazz documentary yet produced, and it's rich in musical examples and classic, rare and unseen footage. Even when working with simple stills, Burns uses seductive camera work and Keith David's epigrammatic narration to maximum effect. There's plenty to enjoy here, but viewers should be aware, as Joshua Redman points out in Musicians' Views in our Ken Burns' Jazz shop, that Burns' film is an often compelling perspective on jazz, not a definitive study. --Mark Gilbert

Product Description

The Complete 12 and a half hour series on 4 DVDs ...JAZZ is an extraordinary, amazing tour de force. Over twelve and a half hours long, JAZZ is the critically acclaimed, definitive history of Jazz music from its roots in the 19th century up to today.

Produced by Ken Burns one of America's most celebrated and respected documentary film-makers this BBC co-production cost in excess of $13,000,000 and took over six years to make.

JAZZ features literally hundreds of rare and classic recordings and live performances from a century of Jazz music, supported by exclusive interviews and rare or never before seen film clips and still photographs.

Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, Goodman, Brubeck, Davis all the big names are here but so too are dozens of less well known artists whose talent and creativity helped to shape the course of a true musical revolution. Achieving a perfect balance between intelligent commentary and archive performances (the best of which are allowed to run uninterrupted for gratifying lengths of time),...

JAZZ is the best American documentary film I have ever seen. NEW YORK POST

the material is fascinating, the research effort is awesome and no jazz lover should miss this. DAILY MAIL

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid this badly edited version 21 May 2012
By Mr. L. N. Taylor VINE VOICE
This is the butchered BBC version of the series, and it is missing nearly 7 hours of footage. Quite why somebody there felt they were qualified, or indeed needed to cut over 33% of the running time from such a landmark series is beyond me, but they have ended up doing Ken Burns no favours at all. I believe whoever took the decision felt that 20 hours was too much for British viewers, and probably went on to fill the remaining airtime with an antiques,cookery, or home improvement programme instead!! You can import the full 10 disc US version for less than the price of this Region 2 botch job, and it is well worth doing so. Not only do you get the full uncut episodes spread over 10 discs, but much better picture and sound quality than on the 4 disc hatchet job.
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108 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Let's start with the criticisms and get them out of the way. For one, what you may have heard about Ken Burns skipping a great deal of the past four decades of the history of Jazz is true. He did that, ostensibly, in order to focus on the existential continental drift initiated by the invention of "Free Jazz" by saxophonist Ornette Coleman in 1961, and what that has meant for both the future of the music and its very definition. But yes, the overarching presence of Wynton Marsalis and "the bull in the African-American intellectual's China Shop" writer Stanley Crouch (the Wagner/Nietzsche duo of the jazz world) is evidence that the condensing of the past forty years onto one disk (or a little more than two of the nineteen plus hours of this documentary) is actually a function of their philosophy. Not, per se, any embryonic one of Ken's (who said repeatedly he knew little of the subject matter before taking this on) or the foundational perspective of every jazz musician. Crouch and Marsalis' perspective (as many know) to a large degree excludes much of what happened after 1961 via declaring it not legitimately being part of the art form that is Jazz.
My second complaint--as a professional singer/pianist, a more important one: the glory of doing a documentary on a living art form is that there are so many seminal artists of it still performing today, let alone still living and wanting to talk about it. It was amazing to hear such special communicators like Wynton, Stanley Crouch, Gerald Early, Giddins, Jon Hendricks, Branford, Charlie Parker's first drummer Stan Levy, Artie Shaw, or Bird's widow Chan Parker and the like share powerful insights and stories.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best anthology of American Jazz to date. 4 Nov 2001
By A Customer
I was simply staggered at the quality of this anthology of American Jazz. It is so comprehensive in its coverage yet so grippingly entertaining at the same time.
Winton Marsalis provides an inspired understanding of the roots of Jazz from the black American slaves up to the Be-bop era in the 1950s and 1960s. His light and easy manner will convey every morsel of his own enthusiasm to the viewer. The way he picks up his trumpet and is able to play the architypal elements of the individual musician - with feeling, is astounding.
The four DVDs are over 12 hours long and are divided into episodes: The Gift; Pure Pleasure; Dedicated to Chaos and A Masterpiece at Midnight.
Each covers an esential part in the development of Jazz, with decent length, original footage of the musicians and bands, history and background of the individuals and a feel for the way fashions of the time influenced and changed the face of Jazz.
If Jazz is your thing and you want to have an informed and easily followed history of American Jazz - you will not be disappointed. Excellent!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars what is wrong here? 13 Jan 2011
I have seen the edited version of this series that was broadcast on BBC television early in the last decade. It is excellent although flawed as anyone who has followed the reviews on the internet will know.

I have a question. Since the original was around 19 hours, why is it that this British four DVD edition is only around 12 hours and probably the same length as the edited BBC showing? The American version is 12 DVD and presumably is the full length presentation. The 12 DVD version is available to UK customers on, and for not much more than we pay for the shorter British version, but customers will no doubt pay duty and VAT at 20% on top of the US price.


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure jazz history 16 Jan 2003
When I saw this documentary by Ken Burns all my knowledge of jazz was turned upside down and added to. A comprehansive journey from the first days of jazz along to the present day with many stops along the way. Celebrity interveiws historic video and a classic soundtrack. The definitive guide to jazz that any interested person should be without.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive guide to American Jazz 17 Feb 2004
Having been brought up on a diet of Armstrong, Bix Beiderbeck, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller and Benny Goodman in all his guises, this is, without question, the most enthralling and informative althology of American Jazz I have seen. Winton Marsallis demonstrates a profound understanding of the signatures, techniques and influences of all the most influential jazz men and women, in their respective eras.
I found that it confirmed a lot of what I thought I knew already and put perspective on many many other aspects.
If you are new to and have a desire to understand how Jazz began, how it flourished and developed, then this is a "must have".
If, like me, you love Jazz from the early days up to the 1960s, you certainly won't be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT PRODUCT
It has been wonderful to see it all again. We had the video version and just had to get the DVD version.
Published 6 months ago by MR GRAHAM POOLEY
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well produced.
Most enjoyable, every style of jazz explained and played by the best musician's in their field. Well done Ken Burns
Published 8 months ago by Arthur Lewis
3.0 out of 5 stars Why only the cut version?
I`m very disapointed that we can only get the abbridged version over here. I can understand the BBC wanting to cut the documentary down for T. Read more
Published 10 months ago by G. PERCY
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns' History of Jazz
I watched virtually every broadcast of this and having missed two glorious broadcasts, I decided this is one of those rare TV outputs which is worth its weight in gold. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dipak Nandy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of work
Great piece of work and just a sublime way to learn watch and enjoy the dvelepment of jazz and all the influneces that enabled evolve. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Island Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz Special Edition
Exactly as advertised-very good-Although when reveiwed by Christopher Bray in the Mail on Sunday as a JAZZ SPECIAL EDITION @ 35.25 I did pay a lot more than that
Published 12 months ago by madge evans
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent view of the origins of the jazz culture.
This is an excellent history of the growth of the music we know of as jazz. The main complaint seems to be that it only reaches to the 1970's and does not feature any of the named... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. George W. Woodcock
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute classic - t
The BBC made a good job of editing the original TV programmes which ran for ( I think 17 hours) to 12 hours cutting out much of the repeat and catch up that is inevitable in such... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Susan M. Atkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Documentaries for a wide public or specialists.
I would recommend this series of documentaries to pretty much anyone who might have some interest in modern day American society and culture. So pretty much anyone, I dare say. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Nigel Haywood
5.0 out of 5 stars great watching
Well worth buying with lots of original recordings. A must if you enjoy jazz (or jass as it was originally called)and its history.
Published on 10 Sep 2011 by Ken and Marian
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