Jazz Noir – The Sound of the Night

A blog about the history, origins, and influences of jazz noir – the sound of the night.

What is Jazz Noir?

Jazz noir is a subgenre of crime fiction that combines elements of hardboiled crime fiction and film noir with jazz music. The term was coined by writer/podcast host, Spike Parker in 2015.

Jazz noir stories often take place in urban environments and focus on characters who are struggling to make ends meet. They often deal with themes of betrayal, corruption, and violence. The jazz music provides a backdrop for the action, creating a feeling of suspense and danger.

While there are many novels that have been categorized as jazz noir, the genre has also been used in films, television shows, and video games. Some notable examples include the films “The Big Sleep” (1946) and “Touch of Evil” (1958), the TV show “Dexter” (2006-2013), and the video game “L.A. Noire” (2011).

The Origins of Jazz Noir

Jazz noir is a musical genre that combines the sensibilities of film noir and hard-boiled detective fiction with the sounds of jazz. The term was coined by writer and filmmaker Quintin Tarantino to describe the soundtrack to his film Pulp Fiction (1994), which includes songs by such artists as Al Green, Kool & the Gang, and Ricky Nelson.

The jazz noir sound has its roots in 1940s swing music and the moody, atmospheric soundtracks of 1950s film noir. These early soundtracks often featured jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, and they helped to create the smoky, jazzy atmosphere that is characteristic of jazz noir.

In the 1960s, film composer Lalo Schifrin created some of the most iconic jazz noir soundtracks with his scores for films such as Bullitt (1968) and Dirty Harry (1971). Schifrin’s influential style combined elements of jazz, classical music, and Latin rhythms to create a unique sound that perfectly captured the tension and excitement of 1970s cinema.

Jazz noir continued to evolve in the 1980s and 1990s with films like Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997), which featured an eclectic mix of songs by artists such as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, and Les Baxter. In recent years, TV shows like Mad Men (2007-2015) have also helped to keep the genre alive with their stylishly retro soundtracks.

The Sound of Jazz Noir

The sound of Jazz Noir can be defined as a genre of music that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, blending elements of jazz and film noir. This genre is characterized by its use of jazz-influenced melodies andprogressions, as well as chromaticism and unresolved harmonic tension. While the term “Jazz Noir” is not typically used to describe contemporary musicians, the influence of this genre can still be heard in many modern artists.

The Influence of Jazz Noir

In the 1940s and 1950s, a new type of jazz began to emerge that would come to be known as jazz noir. This style of music was characterized by its dark, moody sound, which reflected the film noir genre of movies that were popular at the time. Many of the biggest names in jazz, such as Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, embraced this new sound and helped to forge a new direction for the genre.

Jazz noir continued to be popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with many artists adding their own spin on the style. Today, there are still many musicians who keep the jazz noir tradition alive, ensuring that this unique sound continues to be appreciated by fans all over the world.

The Legacy of Jazz Noir

Jazz noir is a musical genre that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, blending jazz and film noir aesthetics. It’s a sound that’s been associated with artists like Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and Billie Holiday.

Jazz noir has its roots in the early days of film noir, when Hollywood began experimenting with what would become one of its most iconic genres. Jazz musicians were quick to latch onto the sound, creating their own interpretations of the style.

Today, jazz noir continues to be a popular genre, with artists like Norah Jones, Brad Mehldau, and Gregory Porter keeping the sound alive. If you’re a fan of jazz or film noir, or both, then you’re sure to enjoy the sounds of jazz noir.

The Future of Jazz Noir

Noir has always been about the present, using the conventions of the past to explore the paranoia and angst of the present. And what could be more paranoid and angsty than the future? With that in mind, here are five artists who are leading the charge in a new wave of jazz noir.

Kamasi Washington
Washington is a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader from Los Angeles, CA. He has been a member of bands led by rappers Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, and has released three highly acclaimed solo albums. His most recent album, Heaven and Earth, is a double album with one disc devoted to each realm. The earthly disc is full of brilliant jazz compositions that explore themes of society, race, religion, and politics. The heavenly disc is a gorgeous mix of spiritual jazz and R&B that is both uplifting and comforting.

Thundercat
Bassist Thundercat (real name Stephen Bruner) is another Los Angeles native who has worked with Kamasi Washington on several occasions. He has also played with Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendencies, Erykah Badu, and numerous other artists across genres. His 2017 album Drunk featured collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Michael McDonald(!), and others. It’s a fun and moving record that features some of Bruner’s best bass playing to date.

Vijay Iyer Sextet
Iyer is a pianist, composer, bandleader, and educator from New York City. He leads a sextet that features some of the best young jazz musicians in the world today. Their 2016 album Far From Over was inspired by Ornette Coleman’s 1967 classic Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. It’s a daring and ambitious work that expands on Coleman’s vision while still maintaining its own unique identity.

Christine Ott
Ott is a French musician who specializes in creating eerie soundscapes with her grand piano and electronics. She has released two solo albums (Nuit Noire and Only Silence Remains) that are both essential listens for fans of dark ambient music. Her music has been used in films such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day. If you’re looking for something truly unsettling, give her music a try.

Youseff Kamaal Black Focus
Black Focus is the debut album from London-based duo Yussef Dayes (drums) and Kamaal Williams (keyboards). The album blends elements of jazz fusion, hip-hop, electronic music, and more into a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Dayes’ drumming is propulsive and complex while Williams’ keyboard work is equal parts melodic and atmospheric. This is an essential album for fans of contemporary jazz music.

10 Essential Jazz Noir Tracks

Jazz noir is a genre that emerged in the 1940s, blending together elements of jazz, film noir, and hard-boiled detective fiction. The result is a dark, atmospheric sound that’s perfect for late-night listening.

If you’re new to jazz noir, start with these 10 essential tracks. You’ll find a mix of classic standards and lesser-known gems, all with that signature Jazz Noir sound.

1. “I Cover the Waterfront” – Billie Holiday
2. “Laura” – Charlie Parker
3. “In the Mood” – Erroll Garner
4. “I Get Along Without You Very Well” – Chet Baker
5. “Autumn Leaves” – Miles Davis
6. “My Funny Valentine” – Billie Holiday
7. “Willow Weep for Me” – Lena Horne
8. “Body and Soul” – Coleman Hawkins
9. “I Should Care” – Sarah Vaughan
10. “April in Paris” – Dexter Gordon

5 Essential Films for Jazz Noir Fans

Jazz noir is a subgenre of film noir characterized by its use of jazz music. The term was coined by film critic Paul Schrader in an essay on the films of director Robert Altman, and has since been used to describe films with a similarly dark and moody atmosphere.

If you’re a fan of jazz noir, here are five essential films you need to watch:

1. The Naked City (1948) – This classic film noir follows the investigation of a brutal murder in New York City. Featuring one of the most iconic opening sequences in cinematic history, The Naked City is a must-see for any fan of the genre.

2. Touch of Evil (1958) – Orson Welles’s masterpiece about corruption and morality in a small border town is one of the most visually striking films noir ever made. It’s also notable for its use of jazz music, including an unforgettable opening sequence set to Henry Mancini’s “Theme from Touch of Evil.”

3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – This groundbreaking film combined live-action and animation, and featured an unforgettable cast of characters, including an all-star lineup of classic cartoon characters. The film also features some great jazz music, including Miles Davis’s “Something’s Gotta Give.”

4. L.A. Confidential (1997) – This critically acclaimed neo-noir tells the story of three police officers in 1950s Los Angeles who become embroiled in a web of corruption and deceit. Featuring an all-star cast including Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential is a must-see for fans of the genre.

5. The Cooler (2003) – This underrated gem stars William H Macy as a luckless casino employee who brings bad luck to anyone he comes into contact with. When he falls for a waitress (Maria Bello), he may have finally found something worth fighting for. Featuring a great jazz soundtrack, The Cooler is a unique entry into the genre that is not to be missed.

5 Essential Books for Jazz Noir Fans

Jazz noir is a term used to describe a genre of music that combines elements of jazz and film noir. The result is a type of music that is both dark and mysterious, often with a smoky or sensual quality.

For fans of jazz noir, here are five essential books that explore the genre in depth:

“Jazz Noir: The Secret History of America’s Music” by Alan Yates
This book provides a comprehensive history of jazz noir, from its roots in the early days of Hollywood to its resurgence in popularity in recent years. Yates traces the genre’s development through its key influencers and practitioners, and includes interviews with some of today’s most respected names in jazz noir.

“The Sound of the Night: A Novel” by Michael Connelly
In this novel, best-selling author Michael Connelly tells the story of Harry Bosch, a Jazz aficionado and private investigator who is hired to solve the murder of a famous musician. As Bosch delves into the case, he uncovers a world of corruption and treachery that threatens not only his life but also his love for jazz.

“California Fire and Life” by Don Winslow
This thriller follows Nick Petrov, a jazz pianist who turns to crime after his career is derailed by narcotics addiction. Petrov finds himself caught up in a web of deceit and betrayal as he tries to make his way back to the top, and ultimately must choose between the life he wants and the life he left behind.

“The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
One of the most iconic examples of hard-boiled crime fiction, this novel follows private detective Philip Marlowe as he investigates the murder of an elderly millionaire. Set against the backdrop of Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly, “The Big Sleep” is both a gripping mystery and a masterful study of Jazz Age America.

How to Create Your Own Jazz Noir Playlist

There’s something about the sound of jazz that just screams “noir.” Maybe it’s the sultry tones, the smoky melodies, or the slow, sensual rhythms. Whatever the reason, jazz and noir go together like a cocktail and a cigarette.

If you’re looking to create your own jazz noir playlist, here are a few tips to get you started:

-Start with some classics. Songs like “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington and “Autumn Leaves” by Miles Davis are Jazz Standards for a reason – they’re timeless.

-Include some lesser-known tracks. Noir is all about uncovering the hidden gem, so don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper into your collection (or do some research online) to find those tracks that aren’t as well-known but still capture that perfect noir feeling.

-Create a mix of fast and slow songs. Jazz noir is sexy, mysterious, and sometimes dangerous – just like the films it soundtrack. So make sure your playlist reflects that by including both fast-paced numbers (think bebop) as well as slower, more sultry tunes.

-And finally, don’t forget to include some vocal tracks! Jazz is often thought of as an instrumental genre, but there are plenty of great vocalists out there who can capture that perfect noir feeling. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone are just a few of the many wonderful singers worth checking out.

Keyword: Jazz Noir – The Sound of the Night

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