Jazz Noir: Listening to Music from Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction

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Overview

Jazz has been associated with crime and immorality since early forms of the music were heard in the brothels of New Orleans and the gangster-owned clubs of the 1920s. This association encouraged the use of jazz in film noir, a genre preoccupied with tales of anxiety and urban decay, which flourished in American cinema during the postwar period. Yet, although the extent and nature of this collaboration has often been alluded to, it has rarely been examined in detail. Making significant use of archival sources and documentation, Jazz Noir seeks to correct this oversight, placing the films discussed in their proper historical context and utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that gives equal weight to the films—including such notables as Phantom Lady, I Want to Live!, and Taxi Driver—and to the indelible music that accompanied them.

In so doing, it corrects a great many misunderstandings about this complex, ideologically tinged relationship. Television noirs of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the cinematic neo-noirs of the 1990s, have used jazz and jazz-flavored music extensively, thus giving rise to the misconception that the genre and the musical style were always intertwined. But as author David Butler reveals, it was only when modern jazz had a number of prominent white exponents that it gained any kind of exposure in Hollywood cinema, and even then such exposure was limited. Nevertheless, the broad range of jazz styles was well suited to the broad range of films noir, and the historical approach Butler takes gives due weight to such considerations. The film noir of the 1940s are as different from the film noir of the 1950s as the jazz of the 1940s is from the jazz of the 1950s, and Jazz Noir provides a unique and valuable study of a rich aesthetic synergy.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Butler (film studies, U. of Manchester, UK) places the use of jazz in film in historical context. Drawing on archival sources and documentation, he contrasts each film and its use of music in the classic phase of the genre (the 1920s through the 1950s) with the contemporary jazz scene. He also discusses projects that have drawn on film noir as a source of inspiration or a means of packaging and promoting the music. Where appropriate, he has made the distinction between specific styles such as swing, bebop, cool, progressive, or free, and points out how the failure to take into account the diversity of jazz has often led to misleading generalizations about the music. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275973018
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/30/2002
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID BUTLER teaches Film Studies at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
1 Kind of Jazz: Themes in the Study of Film Noir, Film Music and Jazz 1
2 All God's Chillun' Got Rhythm: The Influence of Racial Myths, Dualisms and Ideology on Early Representations of Jazz 29
3 Absolutely Functional?: Jazz in 1940s Film Noir 61
4 Touch of Kenton: Jazz in 1950s Film Noir 95
5 The Last Syncopation: Jazz in Contemporary Film Noir 143
6 Reminiscing in Chiaroscuro: Concluding Comments 187
App Timeline of Key Events in the Development of Jazz and Film Noir 201
Filmography 205
Bibliography 211
Index 221
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