Jazz: A History of America's Music

Written by:
Ken Burns , Geoffrey C. Ward
Narrated by:
LeVar Burton

Abridged Audiobook

Release Date
November 2000
9 hours 0 minutes
A masterpiece that brings to life the fascinating story of the quintessential American music—jazz. Visually stunning, with more than five hundred photographs, this companion volume to the acclaimed ten-part PBS TV series is an exploration of the music that celebrates all Americans at their best.

Here are the stories of the extraordinary men and women who made the music: Louis Armstrong, the fatherless waif whose unrivaled genius helped turn jazz into a soloist's art and influenced every singer, every instrumentalist who came after him; Duke Ellington, the pampered son of middle-class parents who turned a whole orchestra into his personal instrument, wrote nearly two thousand pieces for it, and captured more of American life than any other composer. Bix Beiderbecke, the doomed cornet prodigy who showed white musicians that they too could make an important contribution to the music; Benny Goodman, the immigrants' son who learned the clarinet to help feed his family, but who grew up to teach a whole country how to dance; Billie Holiday, whose distinctive style routinely transformed mediocre music into great art; Charlie Parker, who helped lead a musical revolution, only to destroy himself at thirty-four; and Miles Davis, whose search for fresh ways to sound made him the most influential jazz musician of his generation, and then led him to abandon jazz altogether. Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, and Ella Fitzgerald are all here; so are Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and a host of others.

But Jazz is more than mere biography. The history of the music echoes the history of twentieth-century America. Jazz provided the background for the giddy era that F. Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz Age. The irresistible pulse of big-band swing lifted the spirits and boosted American morale during the Great Depression and World War II. The virtuosic, demanding style called bebop mirrored the stepped-up pace and dislocation that came with peace. During the Cold War era, jazz served as a propaganda weapon—and forged links with the burgeoning counterculture. The story of jazz encompasses the story of American courtship and show business; the epic growth of great cities—New Orleans and Chicago, Kansas City and New York—and the struggle for civil rights and simple justice that continues into the new millennium.
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Shane A.

Groovy listen.

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BJ Strickland

I grew up listening to big band music that my father loves. I've read books about swing artists & always enjoyed many of the artists listed above. I missed the PBS program - might go looking for it to see it now. LeVar Burton is uncredited as the narrator but that's who it is. He does a very nice job. I had 2 minor, tiny problems - with his tone inflections, it was hard to hear him when he got very soft (car noise, hearing aids) & sometimes his raspy, whispery take on Louis Armstrong & Miles Davis grated a bit, but overall he did an excellent job. My one wish listening to this was that the pieces referenced would be played so we could hear just what the authors meant - but that would easily double the length of the book so I'll have to search these cuts out for myself. There were names not mentioned that I wish I'd heard but overall, I learned a lot & thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Outstanding reader! Excellent production. I only wish that more of the music was included in the story.

Jazz: A History of America's Music
This title is due for release on November 7, 2000.

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