Greg Elich/Geoff Berne exchange on Ken Burns documentary

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jan 12 19:53:53 MST 2001

From: Geoff Berne <gberne at>
To: Gregory Elich <gelich at>
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2001 8:26 AM
Subject: Re: Jazz series - from Louis Proyect

> Thanks for forwarding, Greg. While not prepared to comment on Proyect's
> level of musicology, I agree completely that once jazz became divorced
> from dancing around 1945 it became something other than jazz.  I also
> agree, and perhaps feel even more strongly than Proyect, that the music
> that Burns could have let us hear and experience for ourselves is
> eclipsed on the show by the gratuitous commentaries of Marsalis, Crouch,
> and the other critics.  It's like a reading from a profusely illustrated
> text book and, as Proyect says, an effort at deification of figureheads
> of the jazz Pantheon rather than an effort to bring the meaning or
> feeling of the music home to an audience today. Proyect is absolutely
> correct that the neoclassicism of "Jazz at Lincoln Center" leaves a
> stamp on the show that drains the blood out of the veins of jazz's
> lusty, explosive past and soft pedals the truth of exactly how
> revolutionary it was for black instrumentalists, singers, and
> composer-arrangers to attain such a dominant role in a major American
> cultural field.  While full of wonderful moments, I've found the three
> episodes so far persistently hard to take, and leaving enormous
> loopholes (such as the voices of still surviving musicians from the eras
> mentioned, the impact of sound movies, what happened to the banjo and
> tuba, the impact of the rhythm & lead jazz guitar, etc.).

Louis Proyect
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