Picks and Pans Review: Jazz
Show of the week
Ken Burns's last supersize PBS documentary, 1994's 18½-hour Baseball, contained a few extraneous innings. But you won't hear me grouse that his 10-part 19-hour history of jazz gives new meaning to the term "long-playing record." Why? The music is timeless. If the filmmakers want us to hear all of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" or Coleman Hawkins's "Body and Soul," we'd be fools to resist.
And the stories are as enthralling as the sounds. Though many of the giants discussed in Jazz were dead when work began on this six-year project, they seem ever present in descriptions offered by critics and contemporaries. When sideman Jimmy Rowles recalls a baleful look from Benny Goodman or an approving smile from Billie Holiday, you'll feel you've been on the bandstand with the legends. Whether capturing the poignancy of Charlie Parker's self-destruction or conveying musical joy through the expansive commentary of trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, Jazz does the art form justice.
Bottom Line: It swings