Synopsis by Matt Collar
In a similar fashion to his other documentaries, The Civil War and Baseball, Ken Burns uses historical fact and personal accounts to illuminate the story of jazz and how it coincided with the maturation of America. Jazz roots itself in New Orleans for its first installment, Gumbo. One of the 19th century's most progressive cities, the "wide open" town was filled with gambling, prostitution, crime -- and music. Burns shows how African-American musicians combined Caribbean rhythms, opera, minstrel shows, and (most importantly) marching bands with ragtime and the blues to produce a music that would soon be called "jass," and later "jazz." The viewer is introduced to such legendary innovators of the music as Buddy Bolden -- the trumpet player who, although never recorded, is mythically touted as the first true jazz musician -- and pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who flamboyantly claimed to have invented jazz (he was the first to notate the music on paper). It is also made apparent how race played a large factor in the development of the music. In 1917, a group of white musicians calling themselves the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first jazz record and quickly became a huge success -- at once polarizing black musicians and ringing in the "Jazz Age."
heritage, jazz, music