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Ken Burns: Jazz [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Keith David , Charles J. Correll    DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 40.75
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Ken Burns: Jazz [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] + Prohibition [DVD] [UK version] + Ken Burns - The Dust Bowl [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Keith David, Charles J. Correll, Freeman F. Gosden, Edward R. Murrow, Richard Nixon
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 10
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Pbs (Direct)
  • DVD Release Date: 28 Sep 2004
  • Run Time: 1095 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,871 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Auditioned just once. Mint condition. NTSC Region 1. Multi-region player necessary.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars JAZZ - a historical view 1 Mar 2009
The scope of this fascinating documentary is wast; it can be defined as a rich historical look into jazz, with emphasis on earlier periods, with intense socio-cultural, economical and political comments. This said, I can very well understand why some disagree with the deemphasis on avant-garde and the huge emphasis on Louis Armstrong and swing era... (actually, I completely agree with Burns' and Marsalis' deemphasis on fusion).

There are some magnificent images and sounds, performances and testimonies here, all well directed and organized, often capturing the best /or too rarely seen/ performances by Armstrong, Goodman, Basie, Rushing, Davis, Parker and others. Actually, there's too much on swing clarinetist for my tastes - although I like both Goodman and Shaw...

This means that this is almost ideal historical introduction to jazz (although there are some mistakes - for instance, the narration lives the impression that Freddie Green came with Basie from Kansas City are, which is false).
Since I am mostly interested into "classical" and "early modern" jazz, this would draw 5 stars from me but... well... how should one put it? There's too much Marsalis in it!

Don't get me wrong - I'm a big admirer of Wynton's work but, since he was a senior consultant to Ken Burns, he should have restrained himself a bit (and even his brother Branford has a prominent role in some episodes)... In the end of the last episode Wynton is presented as a some sort of succesor to the elder giants of jazz /which is probably not wrong/, without giving enough tribute to Art Blakey and the trumpeters that preceded Wynton in The Jazz Messengers...

It would be prudent to restrain himself a bit, although he is an articulate and persuasive advocate of jazz (as he generally is)...
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful animation of key jazz history... 10 Aug 2009
By Tyrone
If you own a multi-region DVD player, forget the 12-hour BBC version because Ken Burns' 19-hour programme is the real thing & the only documentary about the original wave of jazz. No, it's not perfect. Everyone has a barely mentioned fave (Lee Morgan in my case) and partly because he's the artistic director, the last episode gives Wynton & his end-of-century contemporaries almost as much weight as the original giants. However, if you struggle to get turned on by most jazz after about 1970, it's as close to perfect as you'll get. The stories & soundtrack cover all the key artists & many key cuts. There's also an amazing feature which titles the playing track on screen & if you want to know more just press a button. If you use that & chase any briefly mentioned lesser name that interests you, then you'll have everything you need to explore & find your own favourites. Basically, I love this series & never tire of going back to it.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr.P doesn't know what he's talking about 13 July 2012
Jazz is primarily instrumental. It need not be - but it is. It was in the 'beginning', then it wasn't, then it was, now it isn't. It still underlies jazz - but not driving its evolution. The vocal jazz idiom (except Ella) isn't responsible for (as many) major innovations or milestones in the development & progression of jazz as an art/music. Don't get me wrong, I love Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Billy & many others, but their impact (except Ella) on the progression of Jazz isn't as abundant. Frankly, I don't enjoy listening to Louis much anymore but one has to acknolwedge his profound influence on the evolution of jazz - that's why he deserves such attention. There were others, but that doesn't warrant a 1 star rating. This series is monumental & a real achievement. Perhaps Wynton does place too much emphasis on Louis & the tradition - so what (no pun intendeD). Most jazz you hear (live) today, & jazz players are either playing or heavily influenced by Be-bop (I wish they would move on too but this is a fact) - it's extremely influential - that's why it's focussed upon. Not much point dwelling on how unpopular bebop was at its outset (not most of its history) - that's the same with Coltrane, Ornette Coleman & many others. Most groundbreakers aren't accepted at the outset. Pop acts Dorsey & Goodman may be (I only partially acknowledge this) - but many instrumentalist greats got their break in such outfits. Agree the racial aspect & its influence is probably relevant, but perhaps a little anthropological to fit in - I've no judgement on that. These DVD's are a must for anyone seeking good insight to these jazz eras without being an educated jazz practitioner (who should already know most of this). Duke, yes, Dinah Washington & Ray Charles? Read more ›
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. P
Save ya money .....a sorry waste of time & resources that does little for Jazz as an art from imho.

Its full of [easily researched] inaccuracies and factual holwers: It presumes Jazz is mainy instrumental [rookie mistake!]....and has scant mention and/or ignores many of the vocal Jazz artists....and only gives lip service 2 Holiday, Vaughan, Bessie and Ella.....[what bout the rest!!] and yet clearly shows a [even for an undoubted pioneer] blatant bias 4 Louis Armstrong....again....and again....- props 4 Pops is due but after a while u get the impression u just watching a Louis bio.

It puts way too much emphasis on Be Bop [4 an inordinate amount of time - is this the history of Jazz over 100 years or just a Be Bop doc?...hadda question that several times!] It goes on and on 2 the detriment of everything else [Cool, Swing, Latin, Fusion etc.]. And yet tellingly fails 2 acknowledge how truly unpopular Be Bop was for most of its history.

Crimminally skips over many great instrumentalists in favor of genuflecting 2 Parker. Again, it time duration on Bird, u have 2 start questioning if this is just a very, very long [and boring] doc bout him. Spends way too much time acknowledging pop acts like Dorsey and Goodman.

Skips over the importance of Racial socio-political historical perspectives within Jazz's history - unforgiveable!

Great artists who stood head and shoulders above the rest like Duke, Dinah Wahsington, Ray Charles, Coltrane and the context of a doc about Jazz [that has many volumes] all get comparitively little airtime and some get so glossed over or even missed alltogether [Dinah, Basie, Ray Charles]. These woeful omissions immediately make the whole doc pointless and misleading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  380 reviews
335 of 358 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The good, the bad, and the ugly 23 Feb 2001
By Darin Brown - Published on
I think I understand the viewpoints of BOTH the harsh critics and the fanatical supporters of this series. Both have valid points. Both "sides" sometimes fail to understand the points of the other "side" (or fail to even try). Here, I'll try to explain why I think both viewpoints are legitimate.
Briefly, what are the good vs. bad qualities of this series?
GOOD: Music is often blended extremely well with visual material. There is much great music and great film footage. Anyone new to jazz will be exposed to these. Even those not so new to jazz will find interesting sounds and sights. The commentary by Gary Giddons throughout the series is unusually helpful, insightful and moderate, in contrast to some other commentators (see BAD below). The film is good at telling stories (although many of these blur into legend and myth, see below). This film will be entertaining to the general public; it will expose jazz to many people who would never have gotten into it otherwise. It will widen jazz's audience, and in this sense, it will be good for jazz. I don't know how many people I've seen posting on the internet recently who've said that because of this series, they've decided to buy more jazz CDs, go to some jazz concerts, and buy books on the history of jazz and various musicians. So many people are at least being pointed in the direction of exploring jazz on their own, this in itself is a good thing, which will eventually be more significant than the serious flaws in the series (despite that critics of the series feel otherwise at the moment).
BAD: Very often historically inaccurate, blurring the line between history, legend, myth, and cliche. These sins are too numerous to list. See Francis Davis's recent excellent review in the Atlantic online. ("I Hear America Scatting", January 2001) The narration is full of simple, declarative _subjective_ statements which are presented as if they were concrete facts. The history of jazz is presented as closed, undisputed, and final, rather than open, alive, and fresh. The film is awash in hyperbole, overstatement, and blind sentimentality, which takes the place of solid analysis and explanation. Figures (esp. Armstrong and Ellington) are deified to such a degree that the deification they receive completely overshadows their musicianship, and hence trivializes any legitimate attempts to explain or describe their true impact. The music of both Armstrong and Ellington is enough to defend their contributions as some of the most important in jazz history; we don't need to be told that Armstrong "was sent from heaven to make people happy". The film has a definite bias in promoting the Marsalis-Crouch viewpoint. This is perhaps the most serious flaw -- Burns is trying to find abstract ideas (America, freedom, race, democracy, etc.) in jazz music, and ends up injecting race to an extent that is not accurate with social history. There's nothing wrong with having a viewpoint. The problem comes in presenting this viewpoint in such a way that the viewer is never aware that there IS a viewpoint IN THE FIRST PLACE. Evidence of this comes from the stream of newbies to jazz who, after watching the series, confidently reply to the critics: "But this series is well made after all, because NOW I have a good introduction to the history of jazz." Really. How could you KNOW, if this is your ONLY significant exposure to jazz? And that's the big problem, is that the series always gives the impression that it's "objective", giving viewers a false sense of security. The scat singing is annoying. And of course, the impression that jazz died and suddenly reawakened when Wynton Marsalis picked up a horn is patronizing.
So, the series is good as mainstream entertainment and as a vehicle for getting the general public very excited about a neglected art form. The series is bad as an accurate, even somewhat objective history of jazz, and it's conceived with a social agenda that severely compromises its presentation.
My own (admittedly biased) advice to jazz newbies interested in this series: I would rent the series from the videostore. Watch it, enjoy it, love it, and take it with a ton of salt. Then, take the money you would have spent on buying the series, and get several good CDs that interest you. Also, buy the three following excellent books, which together will give you a much richer, much more insightful, much more accurate, and much more representative history of this art form:
The History of Jazz, by Ted Giola
Visions of Jazz: The First Century, by Gary Giddons
Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz 1954-1999, by Whitney Balliett
78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jazzmataz 31 Jan 2004
By Eric J. Lyman - Published on
The old saying goes that one should never talk about religion or politics in polite company. After reading several reviews about this series on this page, I wonder if jazz should be added to that list.
In terms of background in the jazz genre, I fall somewhere between the wide-eyed jazz neophyte critics say this series was aimed at and the graying veteran who spends two or three nights a week listening to live fusion jazz or who rages at creator Ken Burns' exclusion of an obscure might-be bepop avatar.
And from that vantage point, I think Jazz is pretty darn good.
Of course I was puzzled by some of the choices Mr. Burns made in producing this film, the exclusion of some artists and derivative movements and the time spent on others. I raised my eyebrows at the heavy reliance on Wynton Marsalis' views and commentary, the long discussions about race, the glossing over of the modern era.
My point is not to defend these aspects but only to say that it is easy to find fault in something of this scope. Producing this series was a mammoth undertaking: it is 19 hours of artfully done film, culled from thousands of hours of interviews, footage, and music. I cannot imagine anything of this scale being produced without also producing a legion of critics, and Jazz certainly proves that point. But I also fail to come up with any other single source where the viewer can see, hear, and learn so much about the greatest American art form.
There is more to recommend it: this DVD collection includes a host of interactive features that make further learning and listening easy. In a specific DVD mode, viewers who click on the name of a song when it appears on the screen find that the film stops and a list of all the musicians who contributed to the piece appears, along with the recording studio, the year of production and other miscellaneous tidbits. I discovered that each song on each DVD is individually tracked, making it easy to jump from one to the other. Furthermore, the "extras" section includes three stunning full-length performances not included in the film (my favorite is Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues") and a well-done 15-minute documentary on how the film was produced.
157 of 184 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive, in-depth course on jazz history! 8 Jan 2001
By J. Lund - Published on
After several days of marathon video viewing, I'm happy (and relieved) that, despite some inevitable imperfections, JAZZ: A FILM BY KEN BURNS is an amazingly broad and detailed exam of the music's history. Despite having read many excellent jazz-related books, I think that video rather than the printed word is the preferred medium to get initial or even remedial exposure to the music, because here you have as the centerpiece the actual audio and video of the art and artists. If you read a book about jazz, you don't have that essential evidence of the music itself, but merely descriptions of it.
Why buy the DVD? There is a minor amount of extra footage. More significantly, the program can be altered so that whenever a piece of music appears, one can display the discographical info. As such, one never has to wonder what they are listening to. Furthermore, the sharpness of the DVD video picture and clearness of the audio is a selling point, particularly when you're looking at vintage photos, videos, and audio that are often not in optimal condition. Plus, with the DVD you can watch the series at your own pace.
I might have thought beforehand that a series which takes six hours just to get to Armstrong/Hines' 1928 landmark recording WEST END BLUES might be a little too obsessive. Yet I remained riveted to the television screen as jazz's history unfolded, from Buddy Bolden to Cassandra Wilson. Jazz has a VERY compelling history on many levels--emotionally for one given the periodic mist in my eyes. I would have preferred a bit less commentary over the clips of jazz's great artists, but occasionally Burns does let the music speak for itself. I was impressed that we get to know a lot of the primary artists in a fair amount of detail. The likes of Armstrong and Ellington (but surprisingly not Miles Davis) are followed from the beginning to the end of their lives.
My first significant exposure to jazz was in the 1970s, and I believe that if this series has an achilles heel, it is that jazz's impact on contemporary popular music could have been examined, which would have provided younger generations a logical entry point that we can relate to, irregardless of our prior degree of exposure to jazz. Instead, the impression-by-omission left here is that jazz has virtually no ties to contemporary pop culture, which I strongly dispute. I think the majority of the viewers of this program are ultimately going to be those who reached adulthood in the 1970s or later, and there is so much that could have been exposed to these generations to indicate that jazz is not a museum piece, but has significant links to contemporary popular culture. For example, I hear a considerable jazz influence on artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Sade, various "acid jazz" artists (particularly in Japan--one of many indications of jazz's global influence), early Earth Wind & Fire, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, and countless others.
Many will compile their list of JAZZ's omissions (Toshiko Akiyoshi would lead mine). Yet even with these relatively minor quibbles, Ken Burns has done the music a great service with this project. I wouldn't be surprised if this series ignites a substantial increase in interest in the music by consumers who otherwise might have never given jazz music much thought.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars incomplete and skewed with some nice sections 1 Oct 2007
By chavruta - Published on
Burns clearly is not an expert in Jazz and is relying heavily on Marsalis, who has picked and chosen his favorites. This is good for Marsalis as an artist, but bad for historians. I hate to say it but White and Latino jazz musicians get very little due. (Marsalis again). Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, Joe Pass, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Larendo Almieda, all of the Latino players discovered by Dizzy, etc. Way too much time is spent on a handful of his favorite, albiet great artists. The worst part is there are no complete performances. To learn the most about jazz you have to as Miles Davis said "Go back and sit down and listen"
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "A" for Entertainment, "C-" for History 5 April 2008
By M. Agosta - Published on
Ken Burns is an effective filmakeer; if only he were an effective historian! Jazz is a deeply flawed project. The rise of recorded sound and the mass media compressed the history of Jazz. In less than a century, Jazz has seen as many movements/counter-movements and revolutionary outbursts as art or classical music saw over many centuries, but in Jazz, movements last years, not decades, and what was considered "radical" in 1945 was "traditional" or even "old hat" by 1960. Yet this rich tug of war between sub-genres is almost entirely absent in Burns' work.

Because Burns is not a trained musician, he relied on others to flesh out the idiom's history for him. In choosing Wynton Marsalis as his cultural beacon, he inadvertently chose by far one of the most conservative voices in Jazz. Mr. Marsalis is a formidable musician, but many in Jazz dispute his very narrow outlook on the art. In Mr. Marsalis' world, the only "real" jazz is blues infused. Blues is indeed a powerful component of jazz, but the 12 bar alternation of the three chords (I,IV and V) is just one of a panoply of styles. Styles that don't fall into Marsalis' limited stylistic orbit are either completely ignored in Burns' work, or dismissed as the peripheral musical ravings of a hack.

Burns' film only covers some aspects of Jazz from 1900 to 1961. It's like telling the story of Classical music but stopping short with Brahms, blithely ignoring anything that came after 1890, sweeping the huge burst of creativity that followed under the cultural carpet. Just as the history of classical music cannot ignore towering 20th figures such as Mahler, Stravinsky, Sehoenberg, Bartok, Hindemith, Copland, Shostokovich, Cage and others, a huge multi-part history of Jazz should not stop abruptly at 1961.

Just like a conservative telling of classical music (where Bach, Beethoven and Brahms rule over all) we are given cultural pantheons, most notably Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, while others, even remarkable revolutionaries, are ignored or denigrated.

Mr. Armstrong is indeed a powerful and influential figure in Jazz. He pretty much invented vocal "scat" and his early "Hot 5s and 7s" recordings are powerful statements of a folk tradition morphing beyond it's roots into a sophisticated art form. But Mr. Armstrong's influence waned, indeed one could argue died entirely, with the advent of "bebop" in the early 1940s. bebop is more complex harmonicially, replacing the simple chord progressions of the Blues with free-ranging progressions of dozens of chords, pushing the bounds of tonality with "substitution chords," rapid fire and complex improvisation, and chromatic flights of fancy.

Burns' romantic portrayal of Jazz masks what was often a very cantankerous battle among various factions. Mr. Armstrong passionately hated bebop. The practitioners of bebop, Charlie "Bird" Parker and othes, disdained in turn what they saw as the pedantic "moldy figs" of Armstrong's older generation. Ultimately, bebop tugged at tonality as aggressively as the late 19th century classical composers, and like in the classical traditional, it paved the way for a great tonal/atonal divide.

But in Mr. Burns' film its as if the tremendous atonal earthquake brought forth on the album "Free Jazz" never happened. The album was as influential as the huge controversy that greeted Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" in the classical genre. One can love or hate it, but one cannot ignore it. The battles music fans engaged in when John Coltrane embraced atonality with his album "Ascension" are lost on the Burns/Marselis collective imagination. Eric Dolphy's monumental "Out to Lunch" is...well...out to lunch in this miniseries. In Mr. Burns world of gentle jazz, there is little room for radicals.

But in the real world, the split between tonality and atonality shook Jazz to its core for decades. Musicians coming of age in the 1960s through the early 1990s, whether self-taught or emerging from colleges, universities and conservatories, would chose one of two pathways. On one side of the cultural fork, they could chose the tonal, blues and big band infused "inside" or "in" path, or they could opt for the more adventurous atonal, avant garde, "outside" or "out" path. For Jazz, this was *the* civil war. Mr. Burns film doesn't allow for civil wars; indeed, often the music comes off as gentle parlor music, approachable even to the most gentle ears.

Over time, the "out" path became linked to the cultural notion of Black Power. The American Academy of Creative Music (AACM) in Chicago issued manifestos reminiscent of those that radicals in the art movement put forth in early 20th Century Europe. The only true African American music, for the AACM, was "out" and aggressively so. They called for a rejection of classically influenced (and thus "white") tonality.

The inevitable influence of Rock and electronic music on Jazz doesn't exist in the Burns/Marsalis landscape. "Bitches Brew," which fused elements of "in", "out" and rock on a two album release that was, for a time, the darling of thousands of young teenagers who'd never listened to the blues, or to big band. The movement it spawned, Fusion, is not here either. Weather Report and other groups commited the cultural sin of mixing "pure" jazz with "polluted" rock. There is no place for them in Mr. Marsalis' world, and hence no place for them in Mr. Burns' documentary. Nor, it seems, is there room for important and emerging asian or latin american stylists, and fuggetabout "Acid Jazz," where hip hop, rap and jazz come together in exciting and suprising ways.

Perhaps the deepest iniquity we must endure with Burns' documentary is the "museum-ification" of Jazz. Jazz is a living art, indeed, many would argue that a new generation of young musicians are engaging today in an historic and lively dialog on both the tonal and atonal paths. But living musicians, such as Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Don Byron and Dave Holland do not appear. Jazz is presented by Burns as a dead art; we only hear from the dead musicians, even in the final episode. That does little to encourage increased exploration of LIVING musicians pracicing a LIVING art.

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