[Dixielandjazz] PBS' "Blues"

Marty Nichols trombone19 at netzero.net
Sun Sep 28 22:56:47 PDT 2003

Jim Beebe wrote:
"I'll bet good money that these shows don't mention the greatest blues singer of all, Louis Armstrong. Nor will they mention Jack Teagarden. Delmark records in Chicago had a meeting once of it's Jazz and Blues artists. Delmark puts out a good line of both Jazz and Blues recordings and is regarded as a top smaller record label and one of the very top Blues labels. I have some recordings out on this label and so I was at this meeting. Bob Koester, the owner, had this idea of bringing Jazz and Blues artists closer together. There is absolutely no interaction between these two groups of musicians. At one point in the general discussion going on I said, rather prominently, "Well, Louis Armstrong was the greatest blues singer and player." Whoa! That got the 'Blues' guys right up off of their rather large asses. Armstrong, a blues singer! They wouldn't hear of it. The fact is , though, that Louis was the greatest blues singer and player. One listen to any blues he ever recorded should verify that. Try his "Beale <snip by accident>

Jim, we must be on the same "wave length" because before I saw your post I had seen two articles in my local paper on the PBS shot and when I saw the paper welcomed comments i sent them an e-mail message.

Herewith the articles and my e-mail to the paper:

My e-mail to the paper:FLATODAY'S article about the PBS program about blues was interesting.

Apparently PBS and the programs writers are re-writing the history of the
blues and leaving out huge segments of authentic blues elements, along with
dozens of great blues players; e.g., Jack Teagarden, Louis Armstrong, and
myriad others from the '20s to the '50s.

Marty Nichols

The articles:

Episode guide to 'The Blues' 

"The Blues," begins 8 tonight on PBS and continues each night through Saturday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.; rerun air dates are also included for each episode. 
Episode 1. Martin Scorsese's "Feel Like Going Home," tonight and rerunning 11:30 p.m. Monday (check local listings). The top-dog director kicks off the series by digging into the West African roots of the blues. Young bluesman Corey Harris, who evokes the acoustic-rural origins of the genre along with some modern influences, travels to Mali and strums guitar with Africa blues star Ali Farka Toure. 
Episode 2. Wim Wenders' "The Soul of a Man," 8 p.m. Monday, and 11:30 p.m. Tuesday (check local listings). The most cinematic episode of the series chronicles the lives of Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir, with expertly crafted faux-silent film footage. It also features some of the best performances of old blues songs by modern artists of every stripe, including Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams, Shemekia Copeland and Los Lobos. 
Episode 3. Richard Pearce's "The Road to Memphis," 8 p.m. Tuesday, and 11:30 p.m. Wednesday (check local listings). This installment tells the story of legendary bluesman B.B. King while also chronicling the rise (and decline, some say) of the blues scene in Memphis. King and many of his contemporaries are shown performing at the annual W.C. Handy Awards in Memphis (the blues equivalent of the Grammys). Although seasoned bluesman Bobby Rush, 62, steals the show with his funky, sexed-up gigs in the black Southern nightclubs that make up the "chitlin' circuit." 
Episode 4. Charles Burnett's "Warming By the Devil's Fire," 8 p.m. Wednesdayand 11:30 p.m. Thursday (check local listings). The most poignant episode of the series delves into blues history through the fictional tale of a young boy who is introduced to the blues while visiting his uncle in 1955 in Mississippi. 
Episode 5. Marc Levin's "Godfathers & Sons," 8 p.m. Thursday and 11:30 p.m. Friday (check local listings). The story of the influential Chess Records label in Chicago, home to everybody from Chuck Berry to Muddy Waters to Howlin' Wolf, is recounted by Marshall Chess. He also collaborates with rappers Chuck D and Common on a recording session with veteran blues musicians to illustrate the music's link to the hip-hop of today. 
Episode 6. Mike Figgis' "Red, White & Blues," 8 p.m. Friday and 11:30 p.m. Saturday (check local listings). This episode opens with a jolt: What's cheesy Welsh pop singer Tom Jones doing in a blues documentary? But he eventually proves his salt, and plenty of other key British rockers (Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, etc.) have their say about how their generation helped introduce the blues to America's white masses. B.B. King even officially gives his blessing to his white, British brethren for how they helped spread the blues across racial, cultural and national divides. 
Episode 7. Clint Eastwood's "Piano Blues," 8 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5 (check local listings). The former Dirty Harry profiles key pianists in blues history, including Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Longhair and Ray Charles. 
Companion CDs and DVDs to "The Blues" TV series 
There's a five-CD box set with more than 100 songs to accompany the series, as well as a separate soundtrack CD for each of the seven episodes. 
Or choose the single-CD "The Best of the Blues" overview. And pick from a dozen new "best of" compilations focusing on these individual artists: The Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Son House, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, J.B. Lenoir, Taj Mahal, Keb' Mo', Bessie Smith, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters. Price for entire CD box set is $69.98. It's available on the Hip-O/Universal label. 
The entire "The Blues" series is also available as a DVD box set ($139.98, Sony) on Oct. 7, or wait until 2004 to purchase episodes separately. 
Companion book 
"Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues -- A Musical Journey," by Peter Guralnick, Robert Santelli, Christopher John Farley and Holly George-Warren (Amistad/HarperCollins, $27.95) 

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Sep 26, 1:15 PM 

PBS takes 'Blues' journey 

Scorsese produces musical epic 

By Kyle Munson 
Gannett News Service 

The blues has been spreading across continents and giving birth to jazz, rock 'n' roll and hip-hop for the last century. The several years that it took an army of filmmakers to create the documentary series "The Blues," starting tonight on PBS (check local listings) seems like peanuts by comparison. 
But don't say as much to Alex Gibney, the Emmy Award-winning producer who earlier this month was still busy sweating the details. He was tweaking the sound mix for the last of the series' seven episodes, the installment directed by Clint Eastwood about blues pianists. 
Another film-director icon, Martin Scorsese, is executive producer for "The Blues" and directed the series' debut episode tracing the music's roots to West Africa. The series prefers a loose, inclusive approach to teaching blues history. Seven different directors (including Scorsese and Eastwood) have their say, all of them given broad creative license. This isn't a stodgy documentary series with historical photos given the pan-and-scan treatment while a narrator drones on. 
We're dealing with blues, after all. 
"The Blues" digs up live performance clips of vintage blues players, but also showcases a range of today's musicians, many of whom have strayed far beyond the blues, to revive the old songs and put a new twist on them. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, for instance, sizzle through J.B. Lenoir's "I Feel So Good." 
Gibney called this lively approach a "unique way of honoring this music, which is also fiercely individualistic." 
It meant more work for Gibney, who had to coordinate the films with each other as they developed to ensure they didn't overlap too much. 
Gibney called himself "the one who's ultimately responsible for making it happen." 
When director Wim Wenders needed a vintage locomotive to shoot scenes in rural Texas, it was Gibney who tracked one down on a tight budget. 
But Gibney has only himself to blame for all the work. Scorsese's original plan, five years ago, called for a more modest, single feature film, until Gibney signed on and proposed the grander seven-part series. 
"Even though the blues springs from a very simple form, it has various interpretations and a vast influence," was his winning argument. 
So work began in earnest on "The Blues" nearly three years ago, about the time that Ken Burns' 19-hour "Jazz" documentary series premiered in January 2001 on PBS. Burns set a precedent for "The Blues" that Gibney was quick to downplay. 
"We decided we were not going to make a series that was going to attempt to be encyclopedic," he says. "This was not going to be the last word on the blues. It was going to be a series of first words, personal and impressionistic." 
"You can go on the Internet and get more info on any of these (blues musicians) and that serves you better," says director Charles Burnett, whose episode of "The Blues," "Warming By the Devil's Fire," goes so far as to focus on a fictional young boy and his uncle to more subtly evoke 1950s-era blues. "I wanted to do a film that people will want to see again." 
It was the public's embrace of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", the 2000 feature film starring George Clooney, that excited "The Blues" crew. Its old-timey soundtrack sold millions of CDs. 
"There was a certain buzz all over the country," Gibney says of "O Brother." 
And of course he hopes to stir a similar buzz with "The Blues." 

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Marty Nichols
Rockledge FL

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