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Jazz - A Film By Ken Burns

4.4 out of 5 stars 671 customer reviews

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(Sep 28, 2004)
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$98.93 & FREE Shipping. Details Only 2 left in stock. Sold by Prime Merchant and Fulfilled by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Additional Features

The DVD version of Jazz offers a "music information" mode, in which the title of a song is displayed when it is played in the film. Pressing the Title button jumps the viewer out of the film to a screen that lists that song's composer, performers (including all band members, not just the headliner), year of recording, and album and record company information when applicable (and no, all the credits are not to the series' own CDs). Another click of the Title button returns the viewer to the film. When music information mode is turned off, song titles are not displayed but the Title button still accesses the song credits. Each DVD's scene-selection menu lists only the 10 subchapters, but in fact each song is individually tracked (50 to 80 tracks per DVD).

The DVD set also includes three full-length performances not seen in the film: Louis Armstrong's "I Cover the Waterfront" from 1933, Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" from 1942, and Miles Davis's "New Rhumba" from 1959. Finally, the 16-minute documentary "Making of Jazz" provides insight into the production of the film. Ken Burns and producer Lynn Novick (who both admit their lack of musical training) discuss their process of researching and collecting materials, Wynton Marsalis mentions how he suggested to Burns the topic of jazz after the trumpeter became a fan of The Civil War, and narrator Keith David is shown recording his lines. --David Horiuchi


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Keith David, Charles J. Correll, Freeman F. Gosden, Edward R. Murrow, Richard Nixon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 10
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Pbs Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 1140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (671 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002KPI2I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,469 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Jazz - A Film By Ken Burns" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Darin Brown on February 22, 2001
Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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