Ken Burns documentary on jazz

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Jan 9 11:53:30 MST 2001

> I had never heard before that one individual, Bill Bolden, a trumpeter in
New Orleans was the actual first person to play jazz.

>>> snedeker at 01/09/01 01:23PM >>>
G.S. i had never heard this story either. this kind of story telling draws
attention away from the social production of art and isolates the Great
Individual. this time the great man goes mad. how romantic? the story of
jazz is the history of a popular music. will Burns transform it into the
story of elite creaters?


CB: I agree with G.S.'s caveat here, and I don't mean to defend Burns especially, but
I didn't think that the show focussed on Bolden much. It made it pretty clear that
social and socio-musical "forces" such as slavery, segregation, blues, ragtime,
marching band music, classical European music  were chrystalized in the individual
Bolden for that moment. It wasn't portrayed that he invented jazz out of the blue.  I
thought that in the part I heard, there was general social analysis and commentary.
For example, the role of creole classical musicians in New Orleans, who had been
segregated from dark skinned Black people, and integrate with them after the Plessy vs
Ferguson cosolidated Jim Crow. There was discussion of the blues as the product of
fairly nameless, hardworking Black masses moaning about their oppression and
transcending it.

Also, most commentary on jazz and its own structure in a way has produced "stars" and
"leaders", famous names such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington,
Billie Holiday, etc. Even the nicknames - Duke, Count, Lady, Prez ,Empress- at one
point tended to an elite.

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