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Controversial? Come on. How can this be controversial? Y2K was controversial. The November 7th U.S. Presidential election was controversial. But Ken Burns doing a service for the millions of PBS television viewers who know jazz only as a four-letter word? How can that be controversial?
A five-CD boxed set, The Story Of America's Music is arranged in chronological order to depict the history of jazz in general terms. There are holes. Fats Waller is missing. So are Jon Hendricks, Stan Kenton, Eddie Jefferson, Lennie Tristano, Randy Weston, Eddie Harris, and Lester Bowie. World jazz, Latin jazz, contemporary jazz, Third Stream and free jazz are only hinted at. Burns stays with the mainstream of jazz in America. He traces its development into the 1960s. After that, much is left to the listener to determine which directions jazz has taken. Since post-1960 history is fresh in the memories of many listeners, this merely opens the door for the avid fan to research and learn more on his own. However, for the younger listener (and television viewer), several decades remain nearly unaccounted for. A lot of updating will be required for members of the younger generation who may look to Ken Burns' series as more than a 'Jazz 101' introductory learning experience.
Disc one covers the 1920s and earlier, while disc two moves into the swing era. Disc three makes the transition from popular World War II big bands to the bebop revolution. Disc four attempts to cover the pivotal late 1950s, but cannot possibly do so. Eleven tracks simply aren't enough. Disc five advances the chronology from Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd to Cassandra Wilson. Again, it's what's missing that draws all the attention from those of us who are seasoned in the jazz repertoire. But it all comes down to who Burns intended as his audience. The set (and 10-part video documentary) works well for the outsider who has watched jazz from a distance and now wants to 'get hip.'
Burns' five-CD boxed set covers all the known quantities. Including complete discographical information and an informative 13-page booklet by Geoffrey C. Ward, The Story Of America's Music makes a fine gift. The sound is reproduced well. Burns covers a lot of jazz in one small collection. Filling in the holes and extending the set to cover non-mainstream areas can take a lifetime to achieve. That's what we do.
Track and Artist Listing:Star Dust- Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra;Death Comes-a-Creepin' in My Room- Fred McDowell;Memphis Blues- James Reese Europe's 369th U.S. Infantry 'Hell Fighters' Band;Livery Stable Blues- The Original Dixieland Jazz Band;Charleston- James P. Johnson;Chimes Blues- King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band;Back Water Blues- Bessie Smith;The Pearls- Jelly Roll Morton;Dead Man Blues- Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers;Wild Cat Blues- Clarence Williams' Blue Five;Cake Walkin' Babies (From Home)- Clarence Williams' Blue Five;Sugar Foot Stomp- Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra;Heebie Jeebies- Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five;Potato Head Blues- Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven;West End Blues- Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five;The Mooche- Duke Ellington and His Orchestra;East St. Louis Toodle-Oo- Duke Ellington and His Washingtonians;Black Beauty- Duke Ellington and His Orchestra;Mood Indigo- The Jungle Band;There Ain't No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears)- Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke;Singin' the Blues- Frank Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke;Riverboat Shuffle- Frank Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke;Hotter than 'ell- Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra;I Got Rhythm- Ethel Waters;It Don't Mean a Thing (if it Ain't Got That Swing)- Duke Ellington and His Orchestra;Echoes of Harlem- Duke Ellington and His Orchestra;Moten Swing- Benny Moten's Kansas City Orchestra;St. Louis Blues- Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra;Ain't Misbehavin'- Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra;For Dancers Only- Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra;King Porter Stomp- Benny Goodman and His Orchestra;Rose Room- The Benny Goodman Sextet;Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)- Benny Goodman and His Orches
Track Listing: Star Dust; Death Comes-a-Creepin? in My Room; Memphis Blues; Livery Stable Blues; Charleston; Chimes Blues; Back Water Blues; The Pearls; Dead Man Blues; Wild Cat Blues; Cake Walkin? Babies (From Home); Sugar Foot Stomp; Heebie Jeebies; Potato Head Blues; West End Blues; The Mooche; East St. Louis Toodle-Oo; Black Beauty; Mood Indigo; There Ain?t No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears); Singin? the Blues; Riverboat Shuffle; Hotter than ?ell; I Got Rhythm; It Don?t Mean a Thing (if it Ain?t Got That Swing); Echoes of Harlem; Moten Swing; St. Louis Blues; Ain?t Misbehavin?; For Dancers Only; King Porter Stomp; Rose Room; Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing); Jumpin? at the Woodside; Sent for You Yesterday and Here You Come Today; Lester Leaps In; Oh, Lady, Be Good!; Without Your Love; Strange Fruit; God Bless the Child; Three Little Words; Rebecca; Harlem Congo; A-Tisket, A-Tasket; Shine; Dear Old Southland; Body and Soul; Cotton Tail; Take the ?A? Train; Begin the Beguine; In the Mood; Well, Git It!; Solitude; Drum Boogie; Salt Peanuts; Groovin? High; Ko-Ko; Scrapple from the Apple; Embraceable You; Get Happy; Epistrophy; Straight, No Chaser; Manteca; Moon Dreams; Just Friends; Rockin? Chair; They Can?t Take That Away From Me; Walkin? Shoes; Fine and Mellow; Doodlin?; I Get a Kick Out of You; St. Thomas; Django; Take Five; So What; Giant Steps; Rick Kick Shaw; Chronology; Original Faubus Fables; Acknowledgment; Hello, Dolly; Desafinado; In a Sentimental Mood; Tourist Point of View; E.S.P.; Spanish Key; Birdland; Mister Magic; Rockit; Un Ange en Danger; Tanya; Soon All Will Know; Death Letter; Take the ?A? Train.
Personnel: Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra; Fred McDowell; James Reese Europe?s 369th U.S. Infantry ?Hell Fighters? Band; The Original Dixieland Jazz Band; James P. Johnson; King Oliver?s Creole Jazz Band; Bessie Smith; Jelly Roll Morton; Clarence Williams? Blue Five; Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five; Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven; Duke Ellington and His Washingtonians; Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke; Frank Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke; Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra; Ethel Waters; Benny Moten?s Kansas City Orchestra; Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra; Benny Goodman and His Orchestra; Count Basie and His Orchestra; Jones-Smith Incorporated (Carl Smith- trumpet, Lester Young- tenor saxophone, Count Basie- piano, Walter Page- bass, Jo Jones- drums); Art Tatum; Pete Johnson and ?Big? Joe Turner; Chick Webb and His Orchestra featuring Ella Fitzgerald; Django Reinhardt & Le Quartet du Hot Club de France; Noble Sissle and His Orchestra; Coleman Hawkins; Artie Shaw and His Orchestra; Glenn Miller and His Orchestra; Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra; Gene Krupa and His Orchestra; Bud Powell Trio; Thelonious Monk; Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra; Charlie Parker; Sarah Vaughan and Her Trio; Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan; Billie Holiday; Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers; Clifford Brown and Max Roach; Sonny Rollins; The Modern Jazz Quartet; The Dave Brubeck Quartet; John Coltrane; Cecil Taylor Trio; Ornette Coleman; Charles Mingus; Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd; Duke Ellington and His Orchestra; Miles Davis; Weather Report; Grover Washington, Jr.; Herbie Hancock; M.C. Solaar & Ron Carter; Dexter Gordon; Wynton Marsalis; Cassandra Wilson; The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Jazz is a creative explosion of individual freedom and communication.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was a kid. My father had a music store.
The best live performance I ever attended was Kenny Garrett in Harlem, New York.
The first jazz record I bought was Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins.
My advice to new listeners is keep listening!