Jazz in Film

Jazz originated in the African- American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920’s Jazz Age, it has been recognized as a major form of musical expression in traditional and popular music. Since the rapid age of film, Jazz has made a wide appearance in the media, especially in film. In this article, we will be discussing some of the best Jazz appearances in film.

Bird, 1988

Bird, directed by Clint Eastwood, Forest Whitaker plays the role of Charlie Parker who can be considered as one of the best Jazz players of all time and the film dives into the reason this icon was nicknamed ‘Bird’. The cinematography and misen scene really depicts the smokey and moody jazz scene that heightens the feeling of the music as well as adding to the emotion of the story. Whitaker’s performance truly makes him become the legend of Charlie Parker as he embraces his every move and sound. The film moves back and forth through Parker’s history, blending moments to find some truth to his life. Much of the film revolves around his only grounding relationships with wife┬áChan Parker, Bebop pioneer trumpet player and band leader Dizzy Gillspie, and his influence (both musically and into the world of heroin addiction) on trumpet player Red Rodney.

Whiplash, 2014

This energising, jazz-filled masterpiece was directed by Damien Chazelle who also famously directed films such as La La Land and Babylon, both heavily based on jazz. Whiplash on the other hand, bases its focus around a 17 year old boy who struggles with his immense obsession of drumming with added conflict from his strict teacher. This film is a coming-of age, jazz fantastic film with incredible music composed by people such as Hank Levy, John Wasson and of course Justin Hurwitz. This is a must-see for any jazz lover or anyone who is a fan of Damien Chazelle’s other work.

Princess and the Frog

This fantastical film from Disney really expresses a family friendly story whilst also exhibiting the origins from where the sound of jazz came from, New Orleans. The film includes one of the best soundtracks of all time including songs such as ‘Almost There’ and ‘Down in New Orleans’. For younger viewers this film can really be their introduction to jazz as it displays some great sounds whilst also illustrating a great storyline with wonderful characters, therefore influencing them into the music.

La La Land

Damien Chazelle once again creates a jazz-filled masterpiece where he creates characters of two people aspiring to follow their dreams one in becoming actress, and one in opening his own jazz club. The film focuses on creating a nostalgic spectacle whilst incorporating jazz and musical phenomenons. The music is composed by the one and only Justin Hurwitz, where he creates music that can transport you into other universes through this film.

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