Jazz (2001)
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Dedicated to Chaos: 1940-1945 

When America enters World War II, jazz is part of the arsenal. Bandleaders like Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw enlist, taking their swing to the troops overseas. Many black Americans, ... See full summary »


Ken Burns


Keith David


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Episode credited cast:
Keith David ... Narrator (voice)


When America enters World War II, jazz is part of the arsenal. Bandleaders like Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw enlist, taking their swing to the troops overseas. Many black Americans, segregated at home and in uniform, find themselves fighting for liberties their own country denies them. In a Harlem club called Minton's Playhouse, a small band of young musicians, led by Dizzy Gillespie and the saxophonist Charlie Parker, has discovered a new way of playing - fast, intricate, exhilarating, and sometimes chaotic. The sound will soon be called "bebop" and once Americans hear it, jazz will never be the same. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

23 January 2001 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
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User Reviews

Jazz enters a new type of age....
27 February 2015 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I have a strong bias and I should mention it now. I love the early jazz music in this show--the Dixieland style and the swing in particular. But so much of this show is about modern jazz--the free-form sort that is much tougher for many of us to appreciate. As for me, it just sounds like noise. Now I am NOT saying I am right--just that this is my bias. So because of this, I had a lot less interest in this show and I tended to discount all the folks who insisted that Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie's style of music was so great. Difficult to play? Sure...but hard for me to enjoy. Again, I am not knocking it or saying it's bad--just that it isn't what I like.

As for the rest of the show, it's focused a lot on these two men and similar artists as well as the state of jazz during the war years. You'll learn about the European jazz musician, Django Reinhardt (my daughter's favorite), more about Duke Ellington (such as his close working relationship with Mr. Strayhorn as well as his band playing Carnegie Hall), race riots during the war because of a greater sense of injustice and black identity as well as quite a bit about Dave Brubeck near the end.

One thing that has bothered me is that up until this episode, Cab Calloway wasn't mentioned but one brief time and nothing more was said about him. In this episode, he's mentioned again but in somewhat derogatory terms since he didn't apparently like Charlie Parker's style of jazz. It sure seems ridiculous to ignore such a great performer and be so dismissive of him. I love Calloway and his style of showmanship was so unique and infectious that I am just shocked he's treated so poorly by the series. Perhaps it's just me, but those are my two cents worth and that's why I am rating this one a bit lower than previous episodes--its own biases (like mine) are obvious but they are biases.

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