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All That Jazz

Don't Expect 'Jazz' DVD to Fill Gaps in Burns Film

Documentary's latest spinoff includes more material but sticks to same list of greats.

February 16, 2001|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Ken Burns "Jazz" juggernaut just keeps rolling along. Every time it seems as though the 10-episode documentary has tapped out every ancillary possibility, something else turns up. The latest is "Jazz: A Film By Ken Burns," a 10-DVD video boxed set of the series on PBS DVD Gold.

The benefit of DVD, of course, is the potential for including all sorts of fascinating material that didn't make it into the televised version. And, since Burns has offered lack of space as one of the reasons why so many important musicians--some of whom were interviewed on film but not represented in the documentary--were left out, the DVD would seem to be the perfect medium to fill in the missing gaps.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

On the positive side, there is some additional performance material, notably from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. That's not surprising given their prominence in the series, but what a shame that others--in a very long list--weren't included.

There's also a 16-minute segment about the making of the documentary, with various interviews with production team members, and a series of useful "Special Music Information Cards" providing data about recordings.

Aside from the "Spectacular Motion Menus" and the beautifully boxed packaging, that's about it. If Burns had any reservations about what and who were left out of the film production, he either lacked time or interest in offering any significant supplement in the DVD version. Too bad. It could have been so much more.

While we're on the subject of jazz DVDs, it's worth mentioning the release of two Rhino DVD Video albums dedicated to "Jazz Casual," Ralph J. Gleason's historic series of interviews. The first is "Instrumentals, Vol. 1," including three half-hour shows dedicated to conversations and performances by Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane. The second, "Vocals, Vol. 1," includes three half-hour shows with appearances and performances by Mel Torme, Carmen McRae and Jimmy Rushing. Although the audio can be played through a 5.1 Surround Sound System, what one hears is a souped version of the original monitor. But no matter. All are from the 1960s, when each of the artists was still articulate and active, and each offers fascinating insights into their personalities and their work.

Jazz Ed.

Lots of developments are taking place in the education arena in the wake of Burns' television seminar introduction to the first seven decades of jazz. But one can expect--and hope--that these programs will take a considerably broader view of the art and its practitioners. Here's what's happening around town:

* The Henry Mancini Institute. This year's HMI 2001 summer program--a series of seminars, master classes, chamber and orchestral performances by 80 gifted young musicians--takes place from July 21 to Aug. 19 at UCLA. A series of free-to-the-public concerts by the HMI Orchestra will be presented during that period at Royce Hall and elsewhere. Since the program's inception in 1996, the number of audition cities has increased from seven to 13, and the number of applicants by 350%. Although the cutoff date for Los Angeles auditions for the all-scholarship program has passed, a limited number of additional audition slots is still available. The auditions take place at UCLA on March 11 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. College-age individuals and young professionals interested in auditioning should contact Jill Packard at the Mancini Institute, (310) 845-1900. More information is also available on the institute's Web site: http://www.manciniinstitute.org.

* The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. The 2001 Club Thelonious series--a showcase for young players--makes a high-visibility opening tonight and Saturday at the Wyndham Bel Age Hotel. Legendary jazz artists Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter will sit in tonight with students from the Monk Institute of Jazz Performance program at USC. The series, which will take place every Friday and Saturday from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., provides an opportunity for fledgling players to test their wings in public. There is no cover and no reservations are required for admittance to the club; reservations are recommended for dinner, however. Next Friday and Saturday, pianist Tamir Hendleman's trio performs, followed by alto saxophonist Evan Francis' quintet on March 2-3.

* The Los Angeles Jazz Society. The society is celebrating Black History Month with an extensive series of jazz performances in local elementary schools. The schedule includes two to three performances a week by groups led by Charles Owens, Ernie Fields Jr. and Washington Rucker at schools across the Southland, ranging from Panorama City, Reseda and Van Nuys to Venice, South Central L.A. and San Pedro. Today, for example, Rucker appears at the Bertrand Avenue School in Reseda, Fields performs at the Hoover Street School in Los Angeles and Owens plays at the Seventh Street School in San Pedro.

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