Film noir and jazz | KNKX Public Radio

According to “Czar of the Black”, Eddie Mullerfilm noir depicts “the other side of the American success story”.

“These are people who realize that going through the program will never get them what they want,” Muller writes. “So they cross the line, commit a crime and reap the consequences. Or, they are stories about seemingly innocent people tortured by paranoia and kicked by fate. Either way, they portray a ruthless and unforgiving world.

It’s quite sinister.

Critic Roger Ebert had a 10 point list film noir identifiers, which included:

Places that stink at night, shadows, alleyways, backdoors of posh places, buildings with high turnover, taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all.

This is the link with jazz in film noir.

Set in the urban nightlife of the 1940s and 1950s, many film noir will have at least one scene in a bar or nightclub, where a jazz or blues band contributes to the general atmosphere of hedonism, wantonness and antics of “down” characters. moral.” It’s a stigma that jazz and blues carried for decades, before they were recognized as art forms and actually taught in schools.

Fortunately, not all film noir relegates jazz to the background.

Otto Preminger’s 1959 classic “Anatomy of a Murder” featured one of the era’s least black actors, Jimmy Stewart, as a jazz-loving piano-playing lawyer. Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn’s score for the film won three Grammy Awards in 1959. Ellington and a few of his band members also appeared on screen.

Duke Ellington and James Stewart / Anatomy of a Murder 1959

Also released in 1959, “Odds Against Tomorrow” featured Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte, and featured an original score by pianist/composer John Lewis, frontman of the “classic plus jazz” group, the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Harry Belafonte – My Baby Is Not Here (scene “Odds Against Tomorrow”)

Part of the fun of watching film noir is researching and identifying musicians from the era who might show up.

Much film noir music has become standard jazz repertoire. Flugelhorn master Dmitri Matheny shared his “Black Medley” with KNKX in 2017.

Dmitri Matheny ‘Black Medley’ | Live studio session

The SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) presents its annual meeting Black City Seattle program at the Egyptian Theater from February 11 to 17. Eddie Muller will be present from 11 to 13.

We don’t see any major jazz artists from the past on Noir City’s lineup this year, but when you go, look for the brief boogie-woogie piano display in the 1950 film “Try and Get Me.”

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