‘The Jazz Ambassadors’ Tells A Surprising Story Of Music, Politics Colliding

Courtesy: PBS

When most people think of jazz, they think of a musical genre that has stayed to itself throughout America’s history.  They think it is a genre that, like classical, has been aimed at a very specific audience.  However, in the mid 1950s and early 1960s, jazz took to the world stage thanks to the cold war and other global issues.  In the process, its rise around the world also helped to bring more attention not only to itself, but to the racial disparity and civil rights movement that was growing back home.  That story of jazz’s global reach is the basis for PBS’ recently released documentary The Jazz Ambassadors.  Released late this past June, the documentary’s story is the most important of its elements.  It will be discussed shortly.  The story’s transitions play their own crucial part to its overall presentation, and will be discussed a little later.  The interviews, pictures and footage used to help tell the story round out its most important elements.  Each item noted here is important in its own way.  All things considered, they make The Jazz Ambassadors a far-reaching presentation that will appeal to students and lovers of music, politics and jazz alike.

PBS’ recently released documentary The Jazz Ambassadors is a far-reaching documentary about the relationship between the worlds of jazz and politics that is certain to appeal to students and lovers of both realms.  That is due in no small part to the 90-minute documentary’s story.  As already noted, the story at the center of this program focuses on the unlikely relationship between the worlds of jazz and global politics during the mid 1950s and early 1960s.  The story starts at the start of the Cold War, with Russia pointing out the blatant racism that plagued America, and the attempt by American political forces to change that view.  The American government’s response was to send some of the biggest names in the jazz world to Russia, India, Africa and other nations as “ambassadors.”  The reaction from those acts – many of which were desegregated – actually had unintended results.  By sending acts such as Duke Ellington, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Dizzie Gillespie and others overseas, their music brought more attention to the plight of African-Americans at the time while also raising the profile of jazz around the world.  Audiences will be surprised to find out that one act in particular – Louis Armstrong – even clashed with the government at one point over its efforts.  Not to give away too much, but at one point, Armstrong had some very strong words for Ike Eisenhower.  These are just some of the interesting elements that make Jazz Ambassadors’ story so interesting.  The revelation that Armstrong unwittingly helped the American government in a conflict in Africa is just as interesting to note, as is then President John F. Kennedy’s reaction to the Civil Rights Movement.  This is included in the final chapter of the documentary.  Between all of this and so much more presented from start to finish, the story at the center of The Jazz Ambassadors gives the already noted audiences plenty to appreciate.  It is of course just one of the elements that makes the documentary stand out.  The story’s transitions play their own important role in the doc’s presentation.

The transitions used throughout the course of the story are subtle, but do so much for the doc’s overall presentation.  It is not obvious at first, but the transitions appear in the form of quotes in white, set against a black background.  Those quotes set the scene for each of the program’s chapters.  At first glance, the quotes don’t seem like much, but in hindsight, they make plenty of sense as each segment progresses.  Case in point, the final segment introducing Duke Ellington’s role in the government’s PR efforts.  It opens with a quote from Ellington about being able to speak about the government’s actions if one disagrees with what is going on.  This plays into the segment as the interviewees talk about Ellington’s trip to India with his orchestra and what happened while they were there.  The quotes from the Polish and Russian musicians that lead into the segments focusing on their reaction to meeting the American jazz stars work just as well, as those stories are told, as are the other quotes and their segments.  Keeping all of this in mind, the break points are not only placed well, but fully functional, too.  To that end, they help keep the program moving fluidly while also proving key to each segment in their own right.  When this is considered along with the story itself, both elements go a long way toward keeping the program engaging throughout.  While they do plenty collectively to keep audiences entertained, they are not the only elements to note in examining the program’s presentation.  The collected interviews, footage and pictures used to tell the story round out the most important of its elements.

The interviews, footage and pictures included in The Jazz Ambassadors are collectively, the foundation of the program.  Without their inclusion in the program, there would be no program to speak of.  From academics, authors and ordinary musicians who had first-hand encounters with the noted celebrities to the artists’ family and fellow musicians, viewers are offered plenty of engaging insights and stories about the international trips taken by Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and others “employed” by the U.S. government.  The footage gives audiences a rare chance to hear the noted audiences in settings outside the studio, both in interview and performing settings.  Those moments create their own entertainment and engagement, too.  The archived photos add even more interest and depth to the program because they serve to illustrate the items discussed by the interviewees.  As minor as it may seem in itself, it does plenty to keep viewers engaged, especially considering the sometimes slower pace of the story.  To that end, those visual aids, coupled with the discussions, prove hugely important to the program’s presentation.  When they are coupled with that noted archived footage, the whole of those elements proves critical to the program’s presentation.  Next to the story itself, they are among the most important of the program’s whole.  When they are considered along with the program’s transitions, all three elements together make The Jazz Ambassadors an important presentation about not only the history of jazz, but of political history, too.  In other words, it proves to be a far-reaching presentation that will appeal to plenty of audiences.

PBS’ recently released historical work The Jazz Ambassadors is an intriguing presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  It is a program that outlines a key period in the history of jazz and the history of America’s political and social upheaval.  This is done by outlining how the two worlds collided in unlikely fashion, ultimately leading to a growth of jazz’s popularity globally and of the importance of the civil rights movement in America.  The stories and insight offered by the interviewees ensure audiences’ engagement and entertainment throughout the story.  The same can be said of the transitions used to divide the program’s segments and keep the program moving.  When they are all combined, they make the program in whole a presentation that the noted audiences will agree is an important addition to their libraries and classrooms.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

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The Jamie Lawrence Sextet’s Debut LP Was Well Worth The Nearly 30 Year Wait

Courtesy: Good Mood Records

The best comes to those who wait.  Everyone has said and heard that old adage at one point or another in life.  It is an adage that definitely applies in the case of The Jamie Lawrence Sextet’s debut album New York Suite.  Lawrence started work on the album almost 30 years ago, but had put it on the back-burner so many times throughout his career.  That sounds like something right out of Mr. Holland’s Opus does it not?  The similarities are purely coincidental, but cannot be ignored.  Getting back on topic, the five-song, 43-minute record from the Emmy and Clio Award-winning producer, composer and music director is a strong effort that proves to have been well worth the wait.  That is proven in part through the album’s extensive title track and opener.  It will be discussed shortly.  Its finale, ‘Tongue Twister,’ also serves to support that statement, and will be discussed a little bit later.  ‘Beluga Triangle’ is yet another example of what makes New York Suite such a surprising first effort from Lawrence.  When it is considered along with the record’s title track/opener,

The Jamie Lawrence Sextet is scheduled to release its debut album New York Suite next month.  Scheduled to be released independently Oct. 5, the five-song, 43-minute record is a surprisingly enjoyable work for jazz enthusiasts and the most devoted aficionados alike.  That is proven in part through the varied arrangements presented throughout the record.  The album’s opener, which is also its longest work at just over 21 minutes, conjures thoughts of the free jazz sounds of the 1950s and 60s.  More specifically, listeners can almost instantly hear the influences of the likes of Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and other similar acts through Lawrence’s own work on the piano as it is joined with the musicianship of famed drummer Peter Erskine and fellow musicians Marty Ehrlich (alto sax, clarinet), J.D. Parran (tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet) and Jim Pugh (trombone).  Bassist Carlos Henriquez even conjures thoughts of Charles Mingus circa 1959 with his own work.

Those collective talents keep the song completely engaging from start to end thanks to little things like the call and response of the saxes and horns presented early on in the song.  The addition of special guest Ed Bialek’s harmonica line to the mix makes the song even more engaging thanks to his light, almost playful approach.  The controlled chaos of the group that follows (and gives each member of the group his own moment in the limelight) paints a vivid picture of New York City that any listener will appreciate.  It does this through the use of a series of movements that are clearly defined throughout the song.  The first of those movements melds into the second movement just before the six-minute mark and the second.  What’s interesting here is the subtle way in which that progression happens.  That subtlety lets listeners know that something is changing, but doesn’t just push it in listeners’ faces and ears.  That same subtlety is used as the song’s second “movement” progresses into its third.  One could argue that a fourth “movement” closes out the overall arrangement in its final minutes.  It is executed through a solo from Henriquez that is eventually complimented by his fellow musicians to finish off the song, and is just as engaging as the song’s other sections.  From start to end, listeners will find themselves getting images of a busy 42nd Street, filled with cabs, the laid back vibes of Central Park and more in each movement.  That Lawrence and company can create such a rich picture of life in New York’s various areas (including even the subway) is a tribute to their talents.  It also serves to show that not only is it a strong first impression from Lawrence and company, but how much the album has to offer listeners.  It is not the only work that stands out in the record’s overall presentation.  The record’s closer, ‘Tongue Twister’ boasts its own merits.

‘Tongue Twister,’ the record’s closer, switches things up a bit by crossing the group’s already familiar free jazz styling and crossing it with a little bit of a Latin jazz vibe.  Even more interesting is that the use of the electric bass here generates a sort of fusion vibe.  One might not think that grouping Latin, fusion and free jazz would work in one composition, but they are expertly balanced throughout.  The end result is a work that presents its own sense of chaotic yet enjoyable chaos.  That is due not only to the work of Lawrence and his fellow musicians, but also to the attention put into balancing each musician’s talents with those of his counterparts.  Case in point is the balance between Lawrence’s work on the piano, Jon Faddis’ trumpet line and Parker’s time keeping.  All three lines are prominent throughout the majority of the song, but are not the only notable additions to the arrangement.  When sax players George Young and Lou Marini join the mix, their funky, upbeat arrangements mix just as well with their band mates to create a fun whole that is certain to have any listener on his or her feet.  To that end, the whole group together creates what is a solid finale to this record and one more example of what makes New York Suite such an enjoyable offering from the Jamie Lawrence Sextet.  It still is not the last of the record’s most notable tracks.  ‘Beluga Triangle’ is one more positive addition to the album.

‘Beluga Triangle’ stands out because it paints a picture that is so dramatically different from its counterparts on this album.  It presents a more nuanced, focused feel than those songs, and one that is more emotional, too.  That is evidenced early on through the balance of Lawrence’s piano line and the work of his fellow musicians.  Saxophonist Eddie Daniels’ John Coltrane-esque performance and drummer Ronnie Zito’s subtle yet solid time keeping make for a wonderful juxtaposition that adds so much to the song’s whole.  When they join with Lawrence’s piano line and trombonist Jim Pugh’s own work, the whole of the group’s work becomes a work that is just as engaging as New York Suite’s other works because of that balance.  As a matter of fact, the overall subtlety in the composition and the balance in the lines creates an atmosphere that could be argued to be even more engaging than the record’s other offerings.  It’s one of those works that proves the old adage true that less is more.  When this is considered along with the engagement and entertainment offered through the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable work that jazz fans of all levels will appreciate.

The Jamie Lawrence Sextet’s debut album New York Suite is one of the most surprising releases of this year’s new jazz offerings.  It is a record that continues to show the expansive talents of its namesake, who has spent decades making music for television, and his fellow musicians.  From the rich picture painted in the record’s opener and title track — which gives listeners a vivid picture of life in New York City — to the equally engaging Latin/free jazz sound of ‘Tongue Twister’ to the moving ‘Beluga Triangle’ and more, this 43 minute record is a solid start for Lawrence and company.  By the time it’s over, jazz fans of all levels will agree that hopefully it will be just the beginning for Lawrence and company.  The album is currently scheduled to be released Oct. 5.  More information on New York Suite is available online now along with Jamie Lawrence’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://jamielawrenceproductions.squarespace.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jameselliotlawrence

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory Announces ‘SBTB: The Complete Series’ Bonus Features List

Courtesy: Shout! FactoryNBC

Shout! Factory has announced the bonus materials to be included in the upcoming release of Saved By The BellThe Complete Collection.

The bonus features that will be included with the new collection are headlined by two brand new making-of documentaries — “Past Time at Bayside High: Making Saved by the Bell” and “Bayside’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Saved by the Bell.”

Also featured in the collection will be the featurettes, “Saturday Morning: From Toon to Teen,” “It’s Alright: Back to the Bell,” “The First of Its Class: From Sitcom to Icon,” audio commentaries, photo galleries and a 16-page companion booklet.

Saved by the BellThe Complete Collection is scheduled to be released Oct. 2, and for true devotees of the timeless series, this set gets right what the show’s previous series offerings have gotten wrong.

Whereas previous sets — including the most recent from Lionsgate — omitted the college years, this set includes those episodes and the previously omitted “Good Morning, Miss Bliss.”  The full, 86-episode series run spans 2,790 minutes across 16 discs and even includes the rare Saved by the Bell movies as an added bonus. They were previously omitted from the series’ most recent release.

Pre-orders are open now for the set at Amazon.  More information on Saved by the BellThe Complete Collecion and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Websitehttp://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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ESPN Announces Schedule Changes For Weekend CFB Broadcasts

Courtesy: ESPN

Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the East Coast, and the impacts of its winds and rain are reaching onto the gridiron.

A number of college football games have been either canceled or re-scheduled as a result of the storm.  This also has impacted the ESPN networks’ broadcast schedule of this weekend’s scheduled college football games.

The updated schedule for the networks’ broadcasts is noted below.

Games Impacted by Hurricane Florence

Date

Time

Matchup/Commentators

Network

 Thu, Sept 13

5:30 p.m.

Boston College at Wake Forest
Dave Flemming, Dan Orlovsky, Paul Carcaterra

ESPN

 Sat, Sept. 15

Noon

Middle Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia
Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman

ESPNEWS

 

Noon

Georgia Southern at No. 2 Clemson
Anish Shroff, Ahmad Brooks, Alex Corddry

ESPNU

 

Noon

*CANCELED*
No. 18 UCF at North Carolina
Mike Couzens, Kirk Morrison

 

12:20 p.m.

*CANCELED*
East Carolina at No. 13 Virginia Tech

 

3:30 p.m.

*CANCELED*
No. 14 West Virginia at NC State
Clay Matvick, Dan Orlovsky, Paul Carcaterra

 

3:30 p.m.

*CANCELED*
Southern Mississippi at Appalachian State

 

4:30 p.m.

Ohio at Virginia (Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville)
Joel Meyers, Forrest Conoly

ESPN2

 

4:30 p.m.

*CANCELED*
North Carolina Central at South Carolina State
Tiffany Greene, Jay Walker

 

 

7 p.m.

Oregon State at Nevada
Trey Bender, Tyoka Jackson

ESPNU

 

7:30 p.m.

*CANCELED*
Marshall at South Carolina
Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey

 

 

7:30 p.m.

Louisiana at No. 16 Mississippi State
Mark Neely, Barrett Jones, Olivia Dekker

ESPN2

UPDATED: ESPN’s Complete College Football Week 3 Schedule

Date

Time

Matchup/Commentators

Network

Thu, Sept 13

4 p.m.

Old Dominion at Charlotte

ESPN3

 

5:30 p.m.

Boston College at Wake Forest
Dave Flemming, Dan Orlovsky, Paul Carcaterra

ESPN

Fri, Sept 14

7 p.m.

Georgia State at Memphis
Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Olivia Dekker

ESPN

Sat, Sept 15

Noon

No. 5 Oklahoma at Iowa State
Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill

ABC

 

Florida State at Syracuse
Mark Jones, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath

ESPN

 

No. 21 Miami at Toledo
Kevin Brown, Andre Ware

ESPN2

 

Georgia Southern at No. 2 Clemson
Anish Shroff, Ahmad Brooks, Alex Corddry

ESPNU

Noon

Middle Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia
Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman

ESPNEWS

 

UTEP at Tennessee
Dave Neal, DJ Shockley, Dawn Davenport

SEC Network

 

Murray State at Kentucky
Mike Morgan, John Congemi, Taylor Davis

SEC Network Alternate

 

Rhode Island at UConn

ESPN3

 

12:30 p.m.

Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh

ACC Network Extra

 

3:30 p.m.

BYU at No. 6 Wisconsin
Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams

ABC

 

No. 17 Boise State at No. 24 Oklahoma State
Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich

ESPN

 

Central Michigan at Northern Illinois
Shawn Kenney, Al Groh

ESPN+

 

4 p.m.

Colorado State at Florida
Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Kris Budden

SEC Network

 

North Texas at Arkansas
Dave LaMont, Ray Bentley, Tera Talmadge

SEC Network Alternate

 

Eastern Kentucky at Bowling Green
Jim Barber, John Gregory

ESPN3

 

4:30 p.m.

Ohio at Virginia (Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville)
Joel Meyers, Forrest Conoly

ESPN2

 

Eastern Michigan at Buffalo
Doug Sherman, Marcus Ray

ESPN+

 

7 p.m.

No. 1 Alabama at Ole Miss
Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe

ESPN

 

Alabama A&M at Cincinnati
Michael Reghi, Dustin Fox

ESPN3

 

Oregon State at Nevada
Trey Bender, Tyoka Jackson

ESPNU

 

Delaware State at Western Michigan
Dan Gutowsky, Jerod Cherry

ESPN+

 

Texas State at South Alabama

ESPN+

 

7:30 p.m.

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas A&M
Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic

SEC Network

 

Louisiana at No. 16 Mississippi State
Mark Neely, Barrett Jones, Olivia Dekker

ESPN2

 

Western Kentucky at Louisville

ACC Network Extra

 

8 p.m.

No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 15 TCU from AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor
Radio: Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, Ian Fitzsimmons

ABC and ESPN Radio

 

10 p.m.

No. 10 Washington at Utah
Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay

ESPN

Wed, Sept 12

2 p.m.

Campbell at Coastal Carolina

ESPN3

Subject to change

More information on the ESPN networks’ college football broadcasts is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

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PBS Announces Release Date For New ‘Super Why’ DVD

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids/Public Media Distribution

Whyatt and the rest of the Super Readers are coming to DVD with another new collection of Super Why episodes next month.

Super Why: The Adventures of Little Bo Peep and Her Sheep is currently scheduled to be released Oct. 2 via Public Media Distribution.  The 46-minute DVD features two episodes of the family friendly vocabulary-building series in the form of “Little Bo Peep” and “The Sheep Who Lost Little Bo Beep” in a sort of twice-told tale sort of format.

The first of the two episodes follows Whyatt as he tries to figure out how to find Mr. Lizard after Mr. Lizard goes missing.  The answer, as always, is in a book.  The Super Readers meet Little Bo Peep, who is looking for her sheep in a similar situation.  Their adventure with Little Bo Peep helps Whyatt figure out how to find Mr. Lizard in the end.

“The Sheep Who Lost Little Bo Peep” sees the Super Readers as they help two of Little Bo Peep’s sheep find her in the episode’s namesake book.  This comes after Whyatt has a playdate with Wolfy, but can’t find Wolfy.

Super Why: The Adventures of Little Bo Peep and Her Sheep will retail for MSRP of $6.99.  It can be pre-ordered online now via PBS’ online store.  More information on this DVD is available online now along with lots of games, activities, printables and more at:

 

Website: http://pbskids.org/superwhy

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/superwhy

 

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Shout! Factory, Sesame Workshop Partner For New ‘Elmo’s World’ DVD

Courtesy: Sesame Workshop/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has partnered with Sesame Workshop to release a new Sesame Street DVD featuring everyone’s favorite fuzzy friend.

Sesame Street — Elmo’s World: Elmo Explores is currently scheduled to be released Tuesday, Oct. 2 on DVD.  The single-disc presentation features two hours worth of Elmo’s World segments from Sesame Street.  Topics such as painting, cooking and habitats are addressed throughout the collection, with help from Elmo’s friends Mr. Noodle, Smartie the smartphone and Elmo’s goldfish Goldie.

Along with two hours of content, the DVD also features a handful of bonus material including extra episodes of Elmo’s World and two episodes of the Sesame Street spin-off, The Furchester Hotel.  This marks the first time ever that the bonus Furchester Hotel episodes “The Count’s Vacation” and “Space Alien Party” have ever been released on DVD.

The Furchester Hotel features Elmo and fellow Sesame Street favorite Cookie Monster along with the series’ lead cast, The Furchesters.  The Furchesters — Funella Furchester, the owner of the “almost world class” hotel, her husband Furgus Fuzz, their daughter Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz and Isabel — do their best to meet their guests’ every need and request.  Those efforts include lots of problem solving skills from which young audiences will learn.

Pre-orders for Sesame StreetElmo’s World — Elmo Explores are open now via Amazon.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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PBS Announces Release Date For New Fred Rogers Doc

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Public Media Distribution will release to DVD next month another documentary focused on Fred Rogers and his beloved series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like was released digitally Sept. 3 and is currently scheduled to be released on DVD Oct. 2. The hour-long documentary, which originally aired on PBS and not to be confused with the other Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is a retrospective on Fred Rogers and his beloved series.

Veteran actor Michael Keaton (Batman, Baman Returns, SpidermanHomecoming) serves as host for the heartwarming documentary.  It also features interviews from other well-known figures, such as Yo-Yo Ma, John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the SunThe World According to GarpInterstellar), Whoopi Goldberg (The ViewStar TrekThe Next GenerationGhost) and others.

Mr. RogersIt’s You I Like was produced by JoAnn Young (JFKThe Lost Inaugural GalaOscar HammersteinOut of my Dreams) and John Paulson (JFKThe Lost Inaugural GalaA Raising in the Sun Revisited).  Ellen Doherty and Kevin Morrison of Fred Rogers Productions executive produced.

Mr. RogersIt’s You I Like will retail for MSRP of $19.99 and can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $14.99 at PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

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