Posted by Jim Beebe on February 05, 2001 at 12:25:22:
A moving tribute to Louis Armstrong almost saves Ken Burns from the condemnation he so richly deserves. But alas, the final show of Ken Burn's JAZZ was marred by the distortions, lies, bogus narrative and pretentious pontificating that so polluted his previous shows.
Here are samples of what we got in the final show.
Singer Abbey Licoln snarling about the evil conspiracy to bring british musicians ( Beatles & Co.) over here to help the record companies suppress the afro-american musicians.
Dexter Gordon. Why Dexter Gordon? Dexter rightully took refuge in Europe to escape the evil white man's control of the music business. Gordon, of course, went through the obligatory Jazz Hero's journey through drug addiciton and back.
Jackie McClean intoned on how the cities were burning and Ken Burns provided some nice shots of the KKK and riots. Footage of afro-americans being chased and beaten by evil white police.
Some nice color footage of napalm in Viet Nam.
Some narrative on the white man's 'tricks' and rescuing jazz from 'white' control.
Footage of sly Stone and his appearance at a Newport Festival. Great jazz this was...NOT. We are instructed on how this inspired Miles Davis to direct his anger to psychedelic music and Fusion.
Charles Mingus. The narration tells us that Mingus as a composer is right next to Ellington. No comment.
Cecil Taylor. Hearing Taylor bang away incoherently on the piano reminded me of a concert I was on with Art Hodes. Cecil Taylor and Eubie Blake were both on this and Taylor pounded away at the piano with Eubie sitting in the wings. Eubie finally stood up and said, "I don't know what he calls that but we used to call it bullshit-in Ab.
Bandford Marsalis actually got off one of the few intelligent remarks on the show. After Cecil Taylor gave off a weighty pronouncement that the audience has to prepare themselves for his concerts, Branford commented, " That's self-indulgent bullshit."
Toward the end of the show we were presented with the new Jazz messiah and who should show up but...Wynton Marsalis. Well, who can blow his own horn better than wynton.
So, another show with very little jazz and yet more pretentious pontificating. The four black crows (Crouch, Murray, Early and Marsalis)were, mercifully, less prominent on this last show. Wynton had some intelligent things to say about Armstrong but quickly lapsed back into his programmed rap.
We should probably compliment and thank Ken Burns for the great shots and footage of Lynch victims, KKK meetings, German Nazi parades, burning cities, burning napalm in viet Nam, riots in America, drug addiction, heroin, alcohol abuse etc.,etc. And we should thank Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Early and Albert Murray for the compelling narration which reminded us of how evil whites conspired to steal this art form from the more creative afro-american originators of this music. Most people doing shows on Jazz would probably overlook these important elements. And Ossie Davis...who but Ken Burns would have thought of having an actor share his wisdom and knowledge of jazz.