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Various Artists: Rhapsodies In Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance

Ken Burns’ Jazz is now on its way to the television series hall of fame. We critics may have our quibbles about it (especially the Bird-was-a-tragic-junkie-genius segment and the last-40-years-of-jazz-evolution-only-needs 60-minutes final episode), but overall, the deelio was enlightening, entertaining and Afrocentrically on point.

What really got me open were the early episodes (postslavery to postprohibition). Brilliantly paced/edited ciphers of photomontages, talking heads/voices, crucial music bits, Keith David’s wryly dramatic narratives, they played an American dream saga deep as Roots. Jazz music as learning tree/spirit-cosmic transcendence over racism, segregation, poverty, violence, powerlessness; Jazz as metaphor for a people’s resurrection, invention, socio-political elevation/cultural validation. And all of Ken Burns’ Jazz’s roads led to Harlem.

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