Netflix Instant has Ken Burns' Jazz epic documentary. In its entirety.
In high school, our jazz band director put this doc on whenever he had office work to catch up on, or whenever he got pissed off at one of us for making too many dick jokes that day. Everyone hated it. I mean, if you really take a look at any Ken Burns work for just a couple minutes, it's just dry narrative and slow panning over black-and-white photos. Occasionally there's live action. Occasionally.
It was boring. Everyone hated it. At that age, you just can't appreciate that kind of genius.
HOW-EV-ER, I started watching it last night on my Roku box (now nicknamed "The Digital Fountain of All That is Beautiful in The World") and (I think you know where I'm going with this) couldn't believe the SPOILS of rich education just one episode had.
I started from the middle, episode 7, because I still believe episodes 1-5 are really depressing and about slavery and stuff and, frankly, I'm not prepared for it right now, and it's a major buzzkill. All I remember from those early episodes was that the word "jazz" was originally "jass." It's true. Ken Burns said so.
The episode I saw was about Charlie Parker and his GNAARRRLLYYYY heroin addiction. This guy had more needles in him than a week's worth of patients at a Chinese witch doctor. ZING!
No but seriously the episode really resonated with me because, like all jazz musicians, Parker, too, had a EUREKA moment. His eureka moment was going to a club, hearing the song "Cherokee," and realizing that soloing wasn't all about interpreting a song's original melody. He was all, like, "FUCK THAT OMGGGGG" and realized that he could play a FLURRY of chord tones to make some really chaotic and beautiful solos. He was a changed man after that night.
I could totally relate, which is why I was so struck by his story. My moment came after seeing this guy on PBS
. Not joking. I'll talk about that on Monday. He changed my life forever.
Hearing critics and musicians and academics on this documentary talk shop about this craft was really refreshing. I suddenly didn't feel so alone in this artistic aspect. I don't have anyone directly connected to me who is as passionate about this art form as I am, so it's nice to know there's hope. I just have to go to more local jazz spots, but they keep dying by the month (at least here in LA they do). It's really depressing and sometimes it makes me really bummed out.
I like how the term "post-bop" is really "jazz for guys who can't handle playing fast."
You'll probably hear me talk about this doc relentlessly until I finish it and watch it 5 more times, so I apologize if you're not down with the sickness. OH-WAH-AH-AH-AH.