Burns’ ‘Jazz’ swings back onto PBS beginning today

Posted by Chip Chandler - Digital Content Producer on
Buddie Petit’s New Orleans Jazz Band, circa 1910s.
Courtesy of Frank Driggs Collection

by Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

For the first time in 15 years, PBS will rebroadcast the tuneful third of Ken Burns’ American trilogy.

Beginning today, Burns’ “Jazz,” which debuted on PBS in 2001, will air through May, taking a one-week break later this month to make room for another Burns project, “National Parks America’s Best Idea.”

The 10-chapter “Jazz” followed the filmmaker’s expansive “The Civil War” in 1990 and “Baseball” in 1994, inspired by an interview with essayist Gerald Early that Burns used for “Baseball.”

"When they study our civilization 2,000 years from now, there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz," Early said.

As Burns said in an interview for the Archive of American Television, “Civil War” covered the Constitution, and “Baseball” was self-explanatory. The documentarian, though, had to study up to prepare for a deep dive into the art form.

What he learned was how intricately the story of jazz was tied to race.

“Jazz was founded by people who had the experience of being unfree in a free land,” Burns told the Associated Press when the documentary premiered. “It is American music, born in the African-American community, and shared with everybody. Jazz is an utterly American story that at its heart celebrates affirmation in the face of adversity.”

The series closely follows two jazz pioneers – Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington – though other popular performers are featured prominently, including Sidney Bechet, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, among others.

Episodes will air at 8 p.m. Fridays through May 20, skipping April 29.

Here’s the schedule:

Friday: “Gumbo (Beginnings to 1917)” and “The Gift (1917-24)”

April 8: “Our Language (1924-28)” and “The True Welcome (1929-35)”

April 15: “Swing: Pure Pleasure (1935-37)”

April 22: “Swing: The Velocity of Celebration (1937-39)”

May 6: “Dedicated to Chaos (1940-45)”

May 13: “Risk (1945-55)”

May 20: “The Adventure (1956-60)” and “A Masterpiece by Midnight (1961-present)”

In conjunction with the Panhandle PBS airings, FM 90’s “All That Jazz” will feature songs from each episode during its weekly broadcasts from 5 to 8 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/show/jazz.