Those who hadn't given up on Ken Burns after watching Jazz may have caught his documentary The War (2007), which chronicled the Greatest Generation's experience in World War II. Of course the related products also hit the stores, and you can purchase related books and CDs, either singly or in deluxe editions.
The soundtrack to The War starts off strongly with a piece of patriotism from Norah Jones. Her intimate piano rendition is perfectly suited to the song, which is touching without being schmaltzy, the type of song that really deserves wider recognition. This is pretty much the only song worth owning from the collection, which sadly falls victim to many other soundtrack albums: many of the pieces are used as background music and are a tad dull when not accompanying images, and because they accompany various moods, the combination comes off as schizophrenic, with no unifying idea to hold it all together. It's a mishmash of WWII jazz, brooding classical pieces, and Wynton Marsalis' usual indulgences, that is likely to satisfy no one interested in any of the three.
The compilations of music from the era are more consistently satisfying. Legacy has access to virtually all of the best music from this time period, and the tie-in with the series gives them another opportunity to get some of it back into circulation. Both Sentimental Journey and I'm Beginning To See the Light are filled with obvious choices like "In the Mood and some more obscure selections like the addictive "Paper Doll by the Mills Brothers. Both succeed at being evocative of their time periods. We get radio broadcasts courtesy of Frank Sinatra, and it's not hard to figure out that a song like "We'll Meet Again took on an extra resonance during wartime.
However, there are so many other compilations of this type of music available that it's hard to say that these stand out above the pack (and curmudgeonly types will snidely comment that Jazz didn't go much farther forward in time musically). As a first purchase, they're a fine acquisition. But it's a sure bet that if you aren't quite sure whether these collections are your cup of tea, wait around and Legacy will come up with some new way to bring them out into the market.
Track Listing: American Anthem (Norah Jones); Walton, The Death of Falstaff (Leonard Slotkin and the London Philharmonic Orchestra); The Wang Wang Blues (Benny Goodman Sextet); Movin' Back (Wynton Marsalis (composer and arranger); How Long Blues (Count Basie); In the Nick of time (Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, Sam Bush and Mike Marshall); It's Been a Long, Long Time (Bing Crosby with Les Paul); America My Home (Excerpt) (Wynton Marsalis (composer and arranger); If I could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (Kay Starr, accompanied by the Capitol International Jazzmen); Blue As the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur (Excerpt) (Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble); Until I'm In Your Arms Again (Wynton Marsalis); Variations For the Healing of Arinushka (Kalle Randalu); Basie Boogie (Count Basie and His Orchestra); Solitude (Duke Ellington and His Orchestra); Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano (Excerpt) (Benny Goodman, Aaron Copland and Columbia Symphony Orchestra); If You Can't Smile and Say Yes (The King Cole Trio); American Anthem (Amanda Forsyth and Bill Charlap. Sentimental Journey: Hits From the Second World War: We'll Meet Again (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra); Dancing In the Dark (Artie Shaw and His Orchestra); Little Brown Jug (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra); I'll Be Seeing You (Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra); Moonglow (Artie Shaw and His Orchestra); Memories of You (Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra); I'll Get By (Harry James and His Orchestra); On the Alamo (Benny Goodman and His Sextet); Pennies From Heaven (Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra); Body and Soul (Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra); Let's Get Lost (Frank Sinatra); Blues in the Night (Cab Calloway and His Orchestra); There Shall Be No Night (Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra); Echoes of Harlem (Cootie Williams and His Rug Cutters); Skylark (Earl Hines and His Orchestra); Saturday Night is the Lonliest Night of the Week (Frank Sinatra); Paper Doll (The Mills Brothers); Long Ago and Far Away (Frank Sinatra); Sentimental Journey (Les Brown and His Orchestra); Waiting For the Train to Come In (Harry James and His Orchestra. I'm Beginning To See the Light: C Jam Blues (Duke Ellington and His Orchestra); Frenesi (Artie Shaw and His Orchestra); In the Mood (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra); Let Me Off Uptown (Gene Krupa and His Orchestra); Taxi War Dance (Count Basie and His Orchestra); The Sheik of Araby (Coleman Hawkins and His All Star Octet); Pistol Packin' Mama (Al Dexter and His Troopers); American Patrol (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra); For the Good Of Your Country (Count Basie and His Orchestra); Cherokee (Charlie Barnett and His Orchestra); Rose Room (Benny Goodman and His Sextet); Opus #1 (Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra); I'm Beginning To See the Light (Harry James and His Orchestra); Tuxedo Junction: Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra); One O'Clock Jump (Count Basie and His Orchestra); I'm Confessin' (Artie Shaw and His Orchestra); Kalamazoo (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra); Boogie Woogie (Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra); 'Tain't What you Do (Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra); Sing Sing Sing (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra).