"The best American documentary I have ever seen"
New York Post
Ken Burns presents this twelve-part series chronicling the history of American jazz through the 20th century. Featuring profiles of some of the greatest figures in jazz, the series reflects the social history of the US through the country's finest original art form.
The first three episodes, broadcast Monday 7 October - Wednesday 9 October, follow the evolution of jazz from its origins to the period immediately before the Depression.
The story begins in New Orleans, where African- American musicians created a new music by mixing ragtime syncopations with the soulful feeling of the blues. With recorded music in its infancy, few were able to hear the new music, but in 1917 a group of white musicians from New Orleans, calling themselves the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, recorded an unexpected smash hit. Following the First World War, jazz moved to the cities of Chicago and New York. The songs of Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, helped black entrepreneurs to create a new recording industry. Fletcher Henderson, a black bandleader, packed the dance floor at the whites-only Roseland Ballroom with his big band arrangements, augmented by the improvisational brilliance of trumpet star Louis Armstrong. Duke Ellington, packing in the crowds at Harlem's Cotton Club, was given the break of a lifetime as radio brought his music to a national audience.
Ken Burns Jazz is now available to buy on DVD here.