Burns might have started with Martin Williams first (early 1970s) Smithsonian Collection, which was
super-heavy on Satchmo, Duke and Bird. He might have formed conclusions stronger than those put
forth by Williams, and further backed off by Williams in the revised (1983) Smithsonian Collection.
For the record, I definitely put Armstrong, Ellington and Parker on the Mount Rushmore of Jazz. I'm
just saying there's more to Jazz History and innovation did not stop with bebop (the Burns and
anthology version of history has all innovation moving to the obscure, inaccessible corners of
free-jazz). I'm also saying that Armstrong and Ellington were quite popular in their day, indeed
throughout their whole careers, so public acceptance or not should be a factor in considering
"importance." Parker is a different matter, he was more popular among musicians and a certain type
of jazz fanatic than the general public, but he was so popular among musicians that he had
tremendous influence on what came later. I can see that, though. Imagine if you're a section player
in the dying days of the Swing fad. You've played the same old over-arranged syrupy stuff for years,
but you're a talented guy with great chops. Along comes this music with different beats and riffs,
born out of jam sessions, that's purposely not arranged yet is played with full-on masterful chops
(if that sounds familiar, it is because it harkens back to the original Dixieland jazz methods, but
with a very modern twist on beats, melodies and chords). What's not to love?
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Cary Ginell" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2013 2:31 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] revisiting an old thread -- jazz anthologies
From what I could tell after watching the series, Burns had developed a theory or raison d'Ítre for
the show, which would focus on Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker. Armstrong's
career was rejuvenated by the traditional jazz revival, but he didn't spearhead it. That was done by
the small indie labels I had mentioned before, in the 1940s. The Armstrong All-Stars didn't form
until 1947, long after the initial revival recordings had been made (beginning with the Watters Jazz
Man sides in 1941). If Marsalis didn't have as pronounced effect on Burns as is believed, certainly
his point of view did, through his mouthpieces, Stanley Crouch and Albert Murray. Burns admitted to
not knowing much about the history of jazz, but either he was led astray by the slanted points of
view of Crouch and Murray or he was extremely selective in what he presented, in focusing on
Armstrong, Ellington, and Parker to the exclusion of others who did not fit into that framework.
Burns' "Jazz" wasn't interested in looking backward; jazz had a two-dimensional forward progress,
and any revivals of previous styles were viewed as unnecessary or irrelevant to the progression.
Bear in mind that I have not seen the show since it originally aired. It's been too painful to
revisit it, however, it would be educational to look at it again in the atmosphere of calm
reflection, whereas when I first saw it, I was in a blind rage and probably not thinking as
critically as I would now as to how it was presented.
On Apr 4, 2013, at 11:20 AM, Arthur Gaer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Just a quick note: I saw Ken Burns speaking about his Jazz series on a panel with Stanley Crouch
> at Harvard at the time of the initial broadcasts.
> Burns was pretty emphatic that Wynton Marsalis had little to do with the content or structure of
> the series. That they didn't talk to Marsalis until they were well into the production of the
> series when the content and structure had already been established, and that they basically just
> did one three-hour interview that was interspersed throughout the series.
> I probably have some of the details wrong (the talk was twelve years ago) but Burns was quite
> adamant that Marsalis did not guide the series. So Burns may have adopted Marsalis's outlook as
> part of his conventional narrative, but unless Burns was deliberately dissembling in his
> discussion, Marsalis wasn't the one who was controlling the history in the series.
> So it may be that Marsalis *would have* or (even did) discuss the traditional revival movement,
> Bunk Johnson, etc. but if so, it was likely Burns who wasn't interested in putting that in his
> series, rather than Marsalis.
> Arthur Gaer
> [log in to unmask]
> On Apr 4, 2013, at 12:38 PM, Cary Ginell wrote:
>> I might also add that the early world music efforts of Herbie Mann and Stan Getz and the bossa
>> nova movement are also excluded from these so-called representative anthologies, more detritus
>> from the ill effects of Ken Burns' "Jazz," which ignored all of this, probably because the trad
>> jazz, world music, and boss nova movements were all spearheaded by white performers. You'd think
>> Wynton Marsalis, a traditionalist himself and the Svengali behind Burns' myopic rewriting of jazz
>> history, would have embraced the coming of Lu Watters, the rediscovery of Bunk Johnson, and the
>> British trad movement of the 1950s, but I have not seen acknowledgement of this period at all
>> from him.
>> Cary Ginell