Although jazz is well represented in terms of documentaries such as PBS’ American Masters series and Ken Burns’ Jazz, few examples of vintage concerts by the pioneers of jazz in their prime period are officially available on DVD. In an effort to remedy this situation, we created the Jazz Icons™ series.
Since the ’30s, Europe has had a love affair with jazz. Often when these American artists would visit they were treated like foreign dignitaries. During the ’50s and ’60s most of the European TV stations were government-controlled and did not depend on ad revenues. They could therefore allow these artists the luxury of performing concerts of an hour or more, expressing their music on a deeper level. In America, however, (especially in the ’50s and early ’60s), the best TV exposure these jazz artists could hope for (with the exception of National Education TV and PBS) would be a few numbers on a network variety show between ads for cigarettes or laundry detergent. We as Americans owe the various TV stations of Europe our thanks for filming and preserving our musical heritage.
From the beginning, our goal was to make each Jazz Icons™ DVD a truly special experience. Every featured artist needed to be a household name that had in some important way helped shape the history of jazz. It was also important to find the earliest concert footage available, featuring the artists as close to their prime as possible. Further, all of the artists and side-musicians had to be fairly paid. To accomplish this, we dealt directly with the artists (or their estates), and for the side-musicians we arranged payment through the American Federation of Musicians. Finally, as with all of our releases, (including our Grammy®-nominated American Folk Blues Festival 1962 – 1966 DVD series) we have provided informative liner notes, previously unseen photos and memorabilia in each DVD’s booklet to enhance the listening and viewing experience.
Many people contributed to this project. We’d especially like to thank TDK for their support, Rick Eisenstein for making sure everything was properly cleared, art director Tom Gulotta for designing a look that we feel truly honors these great artists and their work and Don Sickler for his endless knowledge and boundless enthusiasm which helped shape every aspect of this series. Although we’re proud to list him as associate producer and consultant, in many ways he is the soul of this series.
Jazz is recognized as an American treasure, appreciated the world over, and we hope these DVDs add to the appreciation of this unique and influential art form.
David Peck & Phillip Galloway
Reelin’ In The Years® Productions