VA – The Best of Ken Burns Jazz (2000)

VA - The Best of Ken Burns Jazz (2000)
Artist: Various
Album: The Best of Ken Burns Jazz
Genre: Bop, Cool, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Swing, Vocal Jazz
Released: 2000
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps

Louis Armstrong – Star Dust (3:36)
Jelly Roll Morton – Dead Man Blues (3:15)
Noble Sissle & Sidney Bechet – Dear Old Southland (2:38)
Frankie Trumbauer & Bix Beiderbecke – Singin’ the Blues (3:02)
Louis Armstrong – St. Louis Blues (2:59)
Duke Ellington – The Mooche (3:16)
Fletcher Henderson – Hotter Than ‘Ell (2:57)
Benny Goodman – King Porter Stomp (3:11)
Artie Shaw – Begin the Beguine (3:16)
Duke Ellington – Cotton Tail (3:13)
Count Basie – Jumpin’ at the Woodside (3:11)
Billie Holiday & Eddie Heywood – Solitude (3:14)
Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker – Groovin’ High (2:42)
Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser (2:57)
Sarah Vaughan – They Can’t Take That Away from Me (2:42)
Dave Brubeck – Take Five (45-rpm version) (2:56)
Horace Silver – Doodlin’ (6:46)
John Coltrane – Giant Steps (4:45)
Miles Davis – So What (9:24)
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra – Take the “A” Train (5:34)


A subset of the five-CD package, Ken Burns’ single-CD volume wraps it all up in 75 minutes. This 20-song compilation serves to introduce jazz, from early vocal and trumpet work by Louis Armstrong to the Lincoln Center’s recent Ellington tributes. Every selection is a teaching point that serves to introduce significant milestones along the way. Sure, there are holes. It takes a lifetime to cover it all, and we’re happy to keep on trying on our own. Nevertheless, Ken Burns has done the public a great service through his latest project. Six years in the making, his documentary explores the early development of jazz.

The wordless vocals of Baby Cox with Duke Ellington on “The Mooche” represent a significant thread that runs through jazz. Sidney Bechet’s clarinet, Billie Holiday’s fragile voice, John Coltrane’s giant steps and Miles Davis’ unmistakably haunting trumpet serve as benchmarks. Missing is the second half of the Twentieth Century, with its diversity and worldwide growth. Established elements such as wah-wah trombone and growling trumpet lead to various phases of American jazz. The 1950s represents a culmination, and that’s that. With a beautiful arrangement of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra return jazz to its roots.

Burns’ single-CD volume comes with an informative, well-written 15-page essay by the author that includes black and white photos. Burns makes a significant point when he reminds us that jazz is “not an inaccessible music best left to intellectuals, critics and experts.” No, as Burns makes clear, jazz swings for everyman, and his ten-part film documentary is designed to appeal to anyone who cares to pay attention.