In January, I reviewed the first episode of Ken Burns’s 2001 documentary JAZZ. Today, I continue with episode two, The Gift.
One of the best anecdotes in the episode is the story of Louis Armstrong’s first record, made with King Oliver’s Band. Before microphones, musicians stood around a horn like the one on a phonograph to record. However, Armstrong overpowered his bandmates completely when he stood next to them, so he had to stand ten to fifteen feet back to create a balanced sound.
Jazz records meant that like never before, a genre of music spread from person to person, not just in performance venues. It started in 1917 with a single by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, produced by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Ten years later, the Victor Company expanded to Japan. During the Second World War, The Victor Company of Japan became independent, and since them have made a name for themselves in consumer electronics as well as music, as the developers of the VHS tape.
The Victor Company of Japan is also the label that produces Yoko Miwa’s CDs. While the Yoko Miwa Trio has not had to make any recording adjustments like Louis Armstrong’s, they have adapted to doing both studio and live recordings. In fact, Live at Scullers Jazz Club was originally a 100-copy run, made mostly for people who had been at the show when it was recorded, but it got such a great response, the Trio had the album remastered for a full release in October 2011. This year it was reissued and released in Japan on the Terashima Record Import label.
A concern from the jazz community is that JAZZ gives disproportionate attention to a few individuals. This two-hour episode spends almost an hour each on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Still, the stories are good, and the music is great. I look forward to watching and reviewing the third episode, Our Language.