Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

Jazz Icons

Duke Ellington - Live in'58.
Courtesy of Lee Tanner/
Duke Ellington - Live in'58.

Airs Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 3 p.m. & 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

This one hour special highlights performances culled from the critically acclaimed JAZZ ICONS series, a significant collection of classic concerts and studio sessions that took place throughout Europe between 1957 and 1978.

The numbers showcased in this vibrant public television version feature the greatest legends of jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Wes Montgomery, Anita O’Day, Rhassan Roland Kirk, Buddy Rich and Thelonious Monk.

The program begins with a song from Mr. Jazz himself, Louis Armstrong. Singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Armstrong showcases why he was an American standard hailed by Bing Crosby as "the beginning and end of music in America."

Other highlights include Ella Fitzgerald’s incredible rendition of “Mack the Knife.” In this delightful performance, Fitzgerald adds a dead-on impression of Louis Armstrong’s signature growly voice, highlighting her amazing ability to imitate a range of sounds.

Just as impressive is musical superhero Rhassan Roland Kirk’s unbelievable ability to play multiple instruments at once. From the flute, siren, manzello and clarinet to the saxophone, stritch and whistle, viewers will be amazed to watch Kirk’s musical acrobatics. Especially impressive is his three-horn act, where he imitates a one-man saxophone section.

The program goes on to bring viewers on a tour through jazz, offering a delicious sample of songs and the musicians who brought them to life.

Dizzy Gillespie blows his horn with his mighty cheeks; Sarah Vaughan, the "divine one," sings a very tender renditionof "Lover Man"; John Coltrane offers up a transformational version of "My Favorite Things," the trademark song from The Sound of Music; and pianist Dave Brubeck provides the chords for Paul Desmond's catchy saxophone melody in "Take 5."

Punctuated with fascinating facts on the featured performers, both jazz enthusiasts and new listeners alike will love learning more about the icons’ standout talents.

Many may not know that Dave Brubeck was designated “a living treasure” by the Library of Congress, or that jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery was a major influence on Jimi Hendrix.

Just as interesting is learning about Ella Fitzgerald’s uncanny ability to imitate every instrument in an orchestra and Buddy Rich’s undying commitment to the art of jazz.

A thoroughly entertaining program, JAZZ ICONS serves up a great collection of songs and showcases the performers whose careers have stood the test of time.

This program is part of our TV Membership Campaign. Support quality programming you depend on from KPBS. Give at the $120 level during our TV membership campaign and receive the "The 100 Best Jazz Tunes of the 1950's" 8-CD set. This gift also includes enrollment in the myKPBS Savers Club plus additional online access to more than 130,000 merchant offers and printable coupons, as well as a KPBS license plate frame (if you're a new member).

Your browser does not support this object. Content can be viewed at actual source page:

Watch Jazz Icons on PBS. See more from UNC-TV: Coming Soon.

Jazz Icons: Louis Armstrong - Live In '59
Jazz Icons: Ella Fitzgerald - Live In '57 & '63
Jazz Icons: Thelonious Monk - Live In '66
Jazz Icons: Sarah Vaughan - Live In '58 & '64