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Top Picks: 4th of July on PBS, letters to Harry Potter, jazz masters, and more

PBS presents their annual "A Capitol Fourth" concert, Harry Potter's fan mail, Sony celebrates 40 years of jazz, and more recommendations.

June 30, 2011



Campaigning presidentially

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The Making of the President: The 1960s is a compelling DVD collection of three documentaries based on the bestselling books by presidential historian Theodore White. Covering the 1960, '64, and '68 campaigns, the original Emmy Award-winning films aired on CBS, ABC, and A&E. Available from Athena on July 5.

Pianists, on Your marks

On a Personal Note is a poignant documentary about the New York Piano Competition, a five-day, no-elimination contest for 14-to-18-year-olds. The up-close filmmaking takes viewers inside a rarefied universe of aspiring classical performers and helps general audiences understand the mystery, the music, and the magic of serious piano performance. It is available on DVD but will also debut on New York's WLIW Saturday, July 9.

Celebrate the fourth

Join host Jimmy Smits; performers Steve Martin, Josh Grobin, Matthew Morrison, Little Richard, the National Symphony Orchestra; and more from the West Lawn of the nation's capitol on the Fourth of July as PBS presents its top-rated annual bash, A Capitol Fourth. The show, featuring some of the nation's most spectacular fireworks, will air live in HD from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Potter heads

Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic, a valentine to J.K. Rowling's fictional hero, is a collection of everything from handwritten letters to artwork and photos from readers of all ages. Selections range from the serious – a sister who finds solace in the books after her younger brother has died – to the charming and adult – parents who found ways to bond with children through the tales. This is a touching testament to the impact the seven books have had on what the editor, Lily Zalon, dubs "The Harry Potter generation."

Touching Elbow

Have you lately drifted (or run screaming) away from the homogenized fluffernutter that poses as pop music these days? You could have a new hero. His name is Guy Garvey and he sings like a life-worn angel and writes mesmerizing, touching, and unique songs for the veteran Manchester band Elbow. Their new release, Build a Rocket Boys!, celebrates home, family, and old friends – not exactly prime Top 40 radio fodder. The music is elegant, and Garvey's voice and lyrics will transport you to a place far away from Planet Gaga.

Jazz masters rise again

Sony Masterworks continues its celebration of the 40th anniversary of the classic jazz label, CTI Records, with four reissues – George Benson's "Body Talk," Hubert Laws's "In the Beginning," Freddie Hubbard's "Straight Life," and Stanley Turrentine's "Don't Mess with Mister T." Each of these compilations offers what many critics have called the finest works by the artist.

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