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Ken Burns: Jazz

Where to Watch Ken Burns: Jazz

A Masterpiece by Midnight (1960 - Present)
During the Sixties, jazz is in trouble. Though Louis Armstrong briefly outsells the Beatles with "Hello Dolly," most jazz musicians are desperate for work and many head for Europe.

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The Adventure (1956-1960)
For jazz, the late 1950s is a period of transition when old stars like Billie Holiday and Lester Young will burn out while young talents arise to take the music in new directions. New virtuosos push the limits of bebop: saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins; jazz diva Sarah Vaughan; and the drummer Art Blakey.

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Risk (1945-1955)
The postwar years bring prosperity, but the Cold War threat makes these anxious years as well. In jazz, this underlying tension will be reflected in bebop, and in the troubled life of it's biggest star, Charlie Parker.

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Dedicated to Chaos (1940-1945)
When America enters World War II, jazz is part of the arsenal. Bandleaders like Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw enlist, taking their swing to the troops overseas.

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Swing: The Velocity of Celebration (1937-1939)
As the 1930's come to a close, Swing-mania is still going strong, but some fans are saying success has made the music too predictable. Count Basie and the Kansas City sound reignite the spirit of swing.

Watch Ken Burns: Jazz Season 1 Episode 6 Now

Swing: Pure Pleasure (1935-1937)
As the Great Depression drags on, jazz comes as close as it has ever come to being America's popular music. It has a new name, Swing, and for millions of young fans, it will be the defining music of their generation.

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The True Welcome (1929-1934)
In 1929 as the Great Depression begins, New York is now America's jazz capital. On Broadway, Louis Armstrong revolutionizes the art of American popular song.

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Our Language (1924-1929)
In the 1920s, jazz is everywhere, and for the first time soloists and singers take center stage. We meet Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues; Bix Beiderbecke, the first great white jazz star; and Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, for whom jazz offers a chance to escape the ghetto and achieve their dreams.

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The Gift (1917-1924)
Speakeasies, flappers, and easy money - it's the Jazz Age, when the story of jazz becomes a tale of two great cities, Chicago and New York, and of two extraordinary artists whose lives and music will span almost three-quarters of a century - Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Armstrong grew up on the mean streets of New Orleans and moved to Chicago in 1922, inspiring a new generation of musicians.

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Gumbo (Beginnings to 1917)
Jazz begins in New Orleans, 19th century America's most cosmopolitan city, where the sound of marching bands, Italian opera, Caribbean rhythms, and minstrel shows fills the streets with a richly diverse musical culture. In the 1890s, African-American musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden and Sydney Bichet create a new music out of these ingredients.

Watch Ken Burns: Jazz Season 1 Episode 1 Now

Ken Burns: Jazz is an acclaimed 10-part, 19-hour documentary exploring the history of a genuinely American art form – jazz. First aired in January 2001 on Public Broadcasting Service, this ambitious historical journey by Ken Burns chronicles more than a century of Jazz music evolution. The rich tapestry of Jazz's development is brought to life by internartishly respected filmmaker Ken Burns, who crafts a narrative that is as lyrical, dynamic, and compelling as jazz itself.

The documentary sports a star-studded cast including but not limited to Keith David, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Connick Jr., Joe Morton, Charles Durning, Cherry Jones, Derek Jacobi, Samuel L. Jackson, Amy Madigan, Ossie Davis, Anthony LaPaglia, Delroy Lindo, Matthew Broderick, and Avery Brooks. Some of these virtuosos provide the narration, while others share their expertise and personal anecdotes. The voices of these eminent celebrities illuminate various facets of jazz, bringing the viewer into the world of the musicians, their art, culture, and living history.

Across its 10 comprehensive episodes, Ken Burns: Jazz digs deep into the roots of jazz music, starting from its birth in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, going through the age of Swing in the 1930s, the innovation of Bebop in the 1940s, the shift towards Free Jazz and Fusion in the 1950s and 60s, and finally to the Contemporary Jazz age of the late 20th century. This in-depth investigation of jazz is detailed and filled with both historical information and stimulating music that’s sure to engage both aficionados and newbies alike.

In the series, Ken Burns takes a reflective approach and successfully illustrates Jazz as a mirror of the broader overlay of American culture and history. With incredible authenticity and keen historical insight, the series encapsulates different eras, cultures, and social changes in America as they intersect with the evolving character of Jazz music. At the same time, it provides an intimate look at some of the genre's most influential figures, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.

The narration by David Keith is rich, resonant, and fills the series with dramatic passion. Meanwhile, still photographs, archival videos, and interviews with musicians and enthusiasts are skillfully used to punctuate the narration. These elements, combined with a captivating soundtrack featuring some of the most remarkable jazz performances ever recorded, make Ken Burns: Jazz a visually and sonically enchanting documentary series.

This PBS series also admirably demonstrates the relationship between jazz and American history and society. For instance, the rise of big city life during the Roaring Twenties paralleled the rise of big band jazz and swing, while the social and racial tensions of the 40s and 50s were echoed and addressed in the form of bebop and free jazz. On this account, Ken Burns' documentary is not just a history of a music genre; it's a chronicle of the American experience as well.

In the end, through Ken Burns: Jazz, viewers can gain a deep appreciation of jazz as more than just music. The series brilliantly portrays it as social commentary, a form of personal expression, an integral part of American history, and a constantly changing and evolving art form that absorbs influences from countless other genres. Being a true labor of love, Ken Burns: Jazz is an edifying and entertaining documentary that stands as an homage to the timeless music genre that is Jazz and the indomitable spirit of American creativity and resilience.

In conclusion, Ken Burns: Jazz is an impressive, highly comprehensive study of Jazz music. It is an amalgamation of sublime music, engaging storytelling, and eye-opening historical exploration, serving up an enchanting documentary experience that is as vast and varied as jazz itself. Whether you are a jazz enthusiast eager to delve deeper into its rich history or a newcomer looking to acquaint yourself with this distinctive genre, Ken Burns: Jazz is an all-embracing source of edification and enjoyment.

Ken Burns: Jazz is a series categorized as a new series. Spanning 1 seasons with a total of 10 episodes, the show debuted on 2001. The series has earned a mostly positive reviews from both critics and viewers. The IMDb score stands at 8.6.

How to Watch Ken Burns: Jazz

How can I watch Ken Burns: Jazz online? Ken Burns: Jazz is available on PBS with seasons and full episodes. You can also watch Ken Burns: Jazz on demand at Amazon Prime, PBS, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Apple TV online.

Peter Coyote
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